Thursday, May 15, 2014

FCC Adopts Rules for Incentive Auction of 600 MHz Spectrum

The FCC adopted rules to implement a two-sided Broadcast Television Incentive Auction covering vacated 600 MHz spectrum.

The FCC will conduct a reverse auction in which broadcasters may voluntarily choose to relinquish some or all of their spectrum usage rights, and  a forward auction in which the relinquished spectrum is made available to wireless providers. The rules integrate the reverse and forward auctions in a series of stages; each stage will consist of a reverse a

uction and a forward auction bidding process aimed at a specific clearing target.

Specifically the band plan consists of specific paired uplink and downlink bands (which enables two-way communications), comprised of five megahertz “building blocks.” Additionally, the band plan accommodates limited variation in the amount of spectrum recovered from broadcasters in different geographic areas in order to prevent the “least common denominator market” from limiting the quantity of spectrum we can offer generally across the nation.

The band plan incorporates technically reasonable guard bands, including a uniform duplex gap (a special guard band used to separate uplink and downlink spectrum), to prevent harmful
interference between licensed services.

The rules for new 600 MHz Band licenses are similar to those governing the adjacent 700 MHz Band. Specifically, mobile devices must be interoperable across the entire 600 MHz band. And new licensees will be required to build out to 40 percent of the population in their service areas within six years and to 75 percent of the population by the end of their initial license terms of 12 years.

In December 2013, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a one-year delay in kicking off the Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction until the middle of 2015.  In a blog posting, Wheeler said additional time is needed for public commentary and for putting in place the rules of the road for the auction, including developing the actual procedures for how the auction will be conducted.

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