Wireless Carriers Increase Opposition To Free Wi-Fi Plan

Major mobile companies said the FCC's test results for nationwide wireless broadband are flawed and don't show how much nearby spectrum would be harmed.
A plan to offer consumers free Wi-Fi by the Federal Communications Commission is being drowned out by wireless carriers' calls of unfair practices.

AT&T, Motorola, T-Mobile, and multiple wireless-industry heavyweights filed a complaint earlier this week in opposition to the FCC's plan that would provide free wireless broadband.

Earlier this year, the FCC moved forward with the idea of auctioning off the Advanced Wireless Service-3 spectrum, which operates in the 2,155-2,180 MHz band, with the winner dedicating 25% of the spectrum to creating a free, nationwide wireless broadband network. This network could use advertising to recoup costs, and the wireless network would have to be able to filter out "obscene" material.

This plan was opposed by incumbent telecoms, and T-Mobile in particular was concerned that this wireless broadband could interfere with the Advanced Wireless Services-1 spectrum it recently licensed for more than $4 billion. Startup M2Z Networks is a major proponent of the FCC's plan and said the incumbents are being anti-competitive.

The FCC recently conducted tests in Seattle, and a report by its Office of Engineering and Technology said the concerns over interference were overblown.

But the telecoms, along with the CTIA, Comcast, Nokia, Qualcomm, and U.S. Cellular, said the government agency erred in its analysis. The filing said there are incorrect estimates of overload interference, mistakes in modeling assumptions, and more.

"When generally accepted engineering practices are utilized, it is clear that the AWS-3 operations under the commission's proposed technical limits will cause significant and frequent harmful interference to millions of American consumers. With quality mobile wireless service to so many consumers at risk, the commission should not move forward with the proposed rules and instead should develop technical rules for the AWS-3 band that protects AWS-1," the complaint said.

The FCC could finalize rules by the end of the year and begin auctioning off spectrum in the middle of 2009. The winner would have to ensure that the network covers 95% of the U.S. population in 10 years.

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