FCC’s Wireless Bureau seeks alternative auction plans

The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) put out an unexpected public notice seeking additional input on plans for the commission’s upcoming 600MHz broadcast incentive auctions.

The bureau is focusing on the “down from 51” proposal offered by broadcasters and wireless companies that would start clearing spectrum at channel 51 and move downward. It said that at a May 3 public workshop, stakeholders discussed a variety of technical aspects to consider in creating a 600MHz wireless band plan, including mobile antenna issues, harmonics interference, intermodulation and high-power services in the duplex gap. 

“... The uplink band would begin at channel 51 (698MHz), followed by a duplex gap and then the downlink band,” the WTB said. “The workshop made clear that support for a ‘down from 51’ band plan framework is primarily based on concerns over high-power services in the duplex gap and antenna design issues.”

In its original notice, the FCC expressed an interest in “establishing a band plan framework that is flexible enough to accommodate market variation, i.e., offering varying amounts of spectrum in different geographic locations, depending on the spectrum available.

“Further, although the majority of commenters argue that the commission should prioritize offering paired spectrum blocks over unpaired blocks, some variations of the ‘down from 51’ band plan limit the amount of paired spectrum that can be offered.”

Emphasizing its goals of “balancing flexibility with certainty while maximizing the amount of spectrum we can make available for wireless broadband services in each geographic area,” the commission recognized that other band plans are possible that may achieve the commission’s goals.

The WTB seeks further comment on how certain "down from 51" band plan approaches can best address the potential for market variation, particularly in markets where available spectrum is constrained. Although the commission continues to consider all band plan proposals in the record, it seeks additional comment on certain variations of the "down from 51" band plan.

The WTB has set deadlines of June 14 for comments and June 28 for replies.