FCC Chief Proposes Mobile Spectrum Auction

Julius Genachowski sees broadcast television spectrum as a major part of the agency's strategic planning as it works to accommodate a surge in mobile data traffic.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said Wednesday that the National Broadband Plan his agency is preparing will propose a "Mobile Future Auction" to encourage existing spectrum owners including TV broadcasters to voluntarily give up spectrum as a way of mitigating the coming spectrum crisis.

Genachowski said the proposal will call for existing spectrum licensees to share in auction proceeds after they relinquish their spectrum.

"Why look at broadcast spectrum as a major part of our spectrum strategic planning," Genachowski asked rhetorically. He answered that there is widespread agreement in the mobile wireless industry that broadcast TV bands are a candidate for providing more spectrum. Noting that market research studies have found a "massive amount of unlocked value" in TV broadcast spectrum, Genachowski indicated that there are inefficiencies in the current allotment -- worth as much as $50 billion.

"The highly valuable spectrum currently allocated for broadcast television is not being used efficiently," Genachowski said, adding "indeed, much is not being used at all."

The FCC chairman, who has made the release of additional spectrum for broadband use a major goal of his FCC service, said the National Broadband Plan the FCC is preparing for submission to Congress will also encourage new and innovative ways of using spectrum.

"New ideas such as databases that dynamically enable -- or revoke -- access to spectrum in particular times and places promise to change the way we think about spectrum," Genachowski said. "Entrepreneurs could create new types of devices and ad hoc networks, enabling innovative new uses of spectrum." He also said the plan will propose ways to bring all states up to a minimum level of mobile availability, to "help enable Americans in unserved areas participate in the mobile revolution."

To underscore the coming spectrum shortage Genachowski noted that AT&T has said its mobile data traffic is up 5,000% over the past five years and that Cisco has said 17 petabytes per month were carried over North American wireless networks in 2009 and that number is projected to grow to 740 petabytes a month by 2014.

The FCC has already introduced a ban to help accelerate the buildout of 4G wireless networks while at the same time preventing interference with first responders and public safety providers who use the 700 MHz band for mission-critical communications.">told the FCC in November that it should consider allocating all spectrum under 3 GHz for mobile broadband usage.

Genachowski spoke at a meeting of the New America Foundation in Washington D.C.