SOURCE: Wireless Internet Service Providers Association
May 17, 2012
By Matthew Schwartz
Fixed wireless providers need more spectrum to serve the 48 million rural Americans with no access to broadband Internet, representatives of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association told reporters Wednesday. Members of the association, which consists of about 700 small and medium-sized ISPs, were in town to advocate for access to additional spectrum for unlicensed fixed use, and to educate legislators on the value of unlicensed spectrum in bringing fixed wireless broadband to unserved and underserved areas.
Fixed wireless makes the most economic sense in sparsely populated rural areas, they said. “You can’t deploy fiber in rural Nebraska where there are one or two households per square mile,” said Executive Director Rick Harnish. But demand has skyrocketed and the unlicensed spectrum is becoming “almost polluted with the number of different industries that are trying to take advantage of the low-cost – basically no-cost – spectrum,” he said.
WISPA is worried fixed wireless could be given short shrift if, for instance, the TV white spaces all get auctioned off to the big wireless companies. That wouldn’t leave enough unlicensed spectrum to serve those who lack broadband at home, said the group’s FCC chair, Jack Unger. WISPA advocates TV white space incentive auctions that ensure sufficient unlicensed spectrum for fixed use; shared unlicensed use in the 3550-3650 MHz band; and outdoor use of the 5350-5470 MHz and the 5850-5925 MHz unlicensed bands. It also wants the FCC to allow TV base transmitters to be above ground.
WISPA accused the big wireless carriers of crying about a spectrum shortage even as they inefficiently “warehouse” their own spectrum. “If they were to apply the same kinds of technologies and the same kinds of efficient spectrum use that WISP industry was using, there wouldn’t necessarily be a spectrum shortage,” Harnish said. The association supports spectrum sharing and the idea that companies should “lose what you don’t use,” President Elizabeth Bowles said, arguing there should be penalties for holding onto spectrum without using it. “If you’re purchasing it for warehousing it, then you’re purchasing it to eliminate competition,” she said.
A Verizon Wireless spokesman dismissed those allegations. “Verizon is one of the most efficient users of the spectrum we utilize,” Ed McFadden told us. With more and more people getting on the Verizon Wireless network, the company needs spectrum in order to provide them with the access they expect, he said. “How is using spectrum to meet the needs of customers, and to attract customers, not good for competition?”
But problems like data congestion don’t happen everywhere, Bowles said. Wireless carriers present it as an all-or-nothing proposition, but allocating spectrum everywhere based on an acute need in geographically small areas is not efficient, she said. WISPA proposes offloading cellular data traffic onto fixed networks, and it’s important that there be enough unlicensed usable spectrum nationwide for WISPs to be able to provide fixed wireless broadband, she said.
WISPA is also concerned about the harm Congress can do “if they try and become the FCC,” Unger said. It’s an education problem, members said. For example, a draft bill proposed by House Republicans last summer would have required the FCC to auction all spectrum going to the private sector, whether it’s for licensed and unlicensed use (CD Jul 14/11 p2). But critics said that would have covered Wi-Fi and prevented efficiency and innovation. “It doesn’t take very much education to realize that unlicensed spectrum auctions aren’t reasonable,” Bowles said. “Congress has to be educated.”
Original URL http://www.wispa.org/news/2012/05/18/wireless-isp-association-wants-more-unlicensed
For more information about WISPA, please visit www.wispa.org.
About WISPA: Founded in 2004, WISPA is a trade association of more than 600 WISPs, vendors and others dedicated to promoting, improving and expanding fixed wireless broadband service nationwide. WISPs serve more than three million residential and business customers and operate in every state using primarily unlicensed spectrum.