Live From CTIA: The Commish And Spectrum-Crunch Ideas

NEW ORLEANS — Following the strains of “When The Saints Go Marching In,” played by Trombone Shorty and The Band, CTIA President/CEO Steve Largent was preaching to the choir when he said, “Wireless is the game changer.”

The United States now stands at 105-percent wireless penetration, he added, translating into 332 million customer connections.

“Getting more spectrum is the Number One goal at CTIA,” he added, just before he introduced FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the man who could help the association reach that goal.

“Last week was JazzFest (in New Orleans). This week is GeekFest,” the chairman joked to the audience. “Largent comes here to hang out with you to feel cool.”

Tackling the wireless industry’s appeal for more spectrum to ward off the coming spectrum crunch due to increased subscriber data usage, the chairman first noted that auctions so far have been a “huge success,” and they will continue.

“Even apart from incentive auctions, the FCC plans on conducting auctions for 65 megahertz of spectrum in the next three years,” he noted, but he said his staff also is exploring alternatives, including getting rid of outdated barriers to spectrum use. He pointed to AWS-4, also known as the “MSS S-Band," in which the FCC recently launched a rulemaking to convert  40 megahertz of prime spectrum from satellite to terrestrial use, with new rules due by year’s end. ? ?

“We’re also moving forward on an important initiative to accelerate the rollout of LTE in the 800 MHz band.  The current rules only allow 25 KHz channels, but newer technologies have channels 50 times that size or larger,” he said. “After notice and comment and with appropriate safeguards, I have just placed an Order on the agenda for our May open meeting that would remove this outdated rule.” (For more information on the May meeting, click here.)

“And there is the 2.3 GHz WCS band,” he noted. “We’ve already taken meaningful steps to make at least 25 megahertz more usable by revising technical rules that had impeded use. We’re working with NTIA and industry to make an additional 120 megahertz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band available for unlicensed use. This will provide greater Wi-Fi speeds and more space for Wi-Fi to help meet growing demand. We’re committed to doing everything in our power to move this forward fast.”

Tomorrow: Mad Money’s Jim Cramer grills the top four U.S. wireless CEOs.

Debra Baker

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