Smaller “guard bands” could generate more revenue from spectrum

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chairman of House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, thinks the guard bands between licensed spectrum are too large and could compromise the revenue from the proposed incentive auctions.

The argument Walden raised last week at a hearing with the FCC in attendance raised old political issues in the auctions law that passed last year. The FCC is now starting to design the spectrum auction, which will allow broadcast television stations to sell spectrum voluntarily to the government. It would then be repackaged and sold to wireless carriers for broadband use.

Walden urged the FCC commissioners to review whether they can get by with smaller guard bands to avoid what he estimated would be at least a $7 billion loss in potential revenue from “fat” guard bands.

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, (D-CA), the subcommittee’s ranking member, countered that the law that passed had already struck a delicate balance on the issue of unlicensed spectrum, which she said is a key way that the government can promote broadband innovation.

“Nowhere in the act does it require the FCC to auction guard bands,” Eshoo told the FCC. “Attempts to rewrite the law through the rulemaking process should be rejected by the commission and will only serve to delay the release of new spectrum.”

It was clear the issue is political. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn agreed that unlicensed spectrum should be prioritized, while Republican commissioners Robert McDowell and Ajit Pai agreed with the concerns raised by Walden and other Republicans.”