NAB wants to know more about how wireless companies use spectrum

The National Association of Broadcasters told the FCC in a recent filing that the Commission and Congress still lacks any comprehensive data on how wireless companies use the spectrum already licensed to them.

Current resources, the NAB said, provide an overview of license holdings and available spectrum, but does not analyze or assess the most important consideration — how efficiently each license holder uses its licensed spectrum.

“Without more concrete data on actual usage, the Commission cannot rationally determine whether more efficiency or more spectrum is the better answer to a perceived spectrum crunch in the nation’s largest markets,” wrote Rick Kaplan, Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning for the NAB. “It is possible to use current wireless spectrum allocations more intensely. The carriers apparently are very aware of this fact. Interestingly, some of the most reliable information on wireless carrier efficiency comes from other carriers. In recent wireless industry transactions, Sprint and T-Mobile have each asserted that other carriers are not efficient users of their spectrum.”

The NAB said the FCC can and should mine the carrier data. “The question of how best to handle a supposed spectrum crunch demands, at the very least, a more complete picture of mobile wireless spectrum use across all markets,” the broadcaster group wrote.

Despite the lack of information, the NAB said, wireless carriers continue to assert that their spectrum holdings are not enough to keep pace with rising mobile data demands. Since the wireless carriers ignore the crucial questions, the NAB claimed that both the FCC and Congress “remain in the dark” as to whether wireless providers are using their licensed spectrum efficiently.

“NAB submits that it is not sufficient to analyze only who is licensed to use commercial spectrum in this country,” the filing said. “Rather, the more important question is whether and how intensely licensees use spectrum and where. Without this critical information, the Commission cannot make optimal — or even rational — spectrum management decisions.”

The filing was submitted the NAB’s Kaplan in response to a public notice by the FCC’s Wireless Bureau seeking input on the state of wireless competition in the United States. Kaplan was chief counsel to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and is a former chief of the FCC’s Wireless Bureau.