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Dark clouds appear on ENG horizon as CTIA seeks 15MHz of BAS spectrum

CTIA proposed to the FCC this week that it reallocate 15MHz of contiguous spectrum for commercial wireless mobile use and that the agency should set its sights on spectrum used for Broadcast Auxiliary Service — part of the spectrum reallocated to broadcasters for ENG use as part of the Sprint-funded BAS relocation project.

In comments filed March 13 along with a white paper outlining the proposal, the wireless association said it “strongly encourages” the agency to begin work as directed by the Spectrum Act to identify, allocate, auction and assign the 15MHz for mobile broadband.

The CTIA white paper, “Finding the FCC’s 15MHz,” lays out the wireless industry’s case for considering BAS spectrum and underscores the urgency with which the commission must act based on the deadline of February 2015 established by Congress.

“The Commission should closely evaluate the 2095-2110MHz band in its rulemaking to identify 15 megahertz of new mobile broadband spectrum,” the white paper said. The band is “ideally suited for mobile broadband” because of its characteristics and the ability to be paired with 1695MHz-1710MHz band identified by the Commerce Department for its 15MHz of reallocated spectrum.

The BAS relocation project, which began in 2005 and cost about $750 million to complete, transitioned ENG operations to digital radios and receivers and relocated some ENG operations to 35MHz of spectrum between 2025MHz and 2110MHz.

According to the white paper, the 2095MHz-2110MHz band “is the clear choice for the Commission to identify and reallocate.” It is below 3GHz, contiguous and adjacent to current allocations and would allow pairing, the paper said.

“CTIA is not aware of any other spectrum bands as well-positioned as this band to meet all the key principles for mobile broadband spectrum that could be put to timely use and generate significant revenues through a competitive bidding process,” the white paper said.

NAB opposes the proposal. “If CTIA’s request were not such a serious threat to public safety, it would be amusing, said NAB Executive VP of Communications Dennis Wharton in a statement released on the association’s website. “Every day, local TV stations use broadcast auxiliary spectrum (BAS) to provide breaking coverage of devastating storms, tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires. If Superstorm Sandy demonstrated anything, it is that broadcast television serves as a lifeline in times of emergency, where cellphone/wireless architecture has failed.”