In late April, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Report & Order that allows full-power and Class A broadcasters to band together to stream individual programming while sharing a single channel, thus adding another inducement to get them to give up channels for a future “incentive auction” that will benefit wireless service providers.
In part, that Order says stations opting to share “will employ a single channel and transmission facility but will each continue to be licensed separately, retain its original call sign, retain all the rights pertaining to an FCC license, and remain subject to all of the FCC’s rules, policies, and obligations.”
Hmmm, makes you want to ask “how’s that gonna work for ya?”
Verizon Wireless, which is waiting for FCC approval regarding its pending purchase of wireless spectrum from Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House ( dba SpectrumCo), and Cox Communications, now says – upon close of that acquisition – it will put some of the 700 MHz A-Block and B-Block spectrum it bought at auction in 2008 on the market. Doing this “rationalizes spectrum holdings for further 4G LTE deployment,” Verizon Wireless says.
Apparently, the carrier believes the bandwidth it’s getting from the cablecos is better than what it bought for more than $4 billion a few years ago. By the way, Verizon will hang on to that spectrum, should the U.S. Department of Justice and the FCC decide the cable deal is a no-go.
All these blocks of spectrum now on the block makes me wonder why the industry as a whole keeps talking about spectrum shortages. If there truly were a shortage, no one – no one – would have excess frequencies to sell.
Years ago, Martin Cooper (the father of wireless telephony) told me there is no lack of spectrum. Rather, there is a lack of spectrum management. In a recent interview with The New York Times, he noted, "Somehow in the last 100 years, every time there is a problem of getting more spectrum, there is a technology that comes along that solves that problem."
Indeed, the public-safety community – which has been waiting for channels to build a ubiquitous nationwide network for as long as I have been a reporter – has made a career of doing more with what it has. It hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t been cheap, but it’s been done.
The current movie favorite “The Hunger Games” pits two young people against each other in a fight to the death for the entertainment of others in a futuristic society. Spoiler alert: both kids are spared when the rules change. Today’s “Spectrum Hunger Games” appears to be more about who can come up with the best “spectrum is the lifeblood of the wireless industry” campaign than it is about the wheels on the capacity bus falling off in the near future. Right now, it seems there are two winners – cable operators and Verizon – but maybe that will change, too.