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Federal Communications Commission



More Thoughts on Unleashing our Invisible Infrastructure

July 15th, 2010 by Admin User

Remarks of Phoebe Yang
Senior Advisor to the Chairman on Broadband, FCC
Law Seminars International
Washington, DC
October 18, 2010


Good morning. 

Thanks to Law Seminars International for the invitation to join you all at today’s event.

Thanks also to Michele, Kathleen and Dale for organizing this event – very much looking forward to the discussion.

I’m here today with Ruth to talk about the implementation of the National Broadband Plan – specifically, the issues that arose in the development of the Plan and how they played out.

What We Wanted the Plan to Be

We wanted the Plan to be both visionary and practical. Some people wanted it to be closer to an NPRM, but that’s what Ruth and her team in the wireless bureau do so well

We wanted it to be data-driven, to help policymakers – FCC, Congress, the states – to make intelligent policy choices

And we wanted it to reflect the entire broadband ecosystem – networks, applications, and devices, fixed and mobile – and to be technology-neutral.

How We Developed the Plan

Developing the Plan was an extensive undertaking – the team consisted of a few dozen people focused exclusively on the National Broadband Plan, as well as staff from the FCC’s bureaus, including the one Ruth heads.

The team relied on a wide variety of sources of information. In addition to normal ex parte filings and meetings, we held the FCC’s first comprehensive series of staff-level public workshops: 36 meetings with over 2,500 participants, including 3 workshops purely focused on wireless or spectrum issues. We also reviewed comments from the FCC’s first blog, which attracted more than a half a million page views and generated 1,200 comments.

The team also made a strong effort to think more broadly about historical trends in broadband and similar industries. Early on, we made the decision that the entire Plan was – in some sense – about two things:  investment and innovation. So we began to think deeply about what leads to increased innovation and investment in adjacent spaces, and how what we learned might apply to broadband.

Let me give you an example: electricity. The first commercial power station was built by Thomas Edison in lower Manhattan in 1882. But it wasn’t until 40 years after Edison’s first power station opened that factory electrification really began to take off. This “diffusion lag” was in part due to how unprofitable it was for private industry to replace technologies based on water and steam power with technologies based on electric power. It wasn’t until governments lowered regional utility rates for electricity in the 1910s that the transformation really began to take off. Then in the 1930s and 1940s, the work of the Rural Electrification Administration completed the transformation. This allowed farmers to become more productive and drove private-sector innovation in the American agricultural industry.

In the Plan, we called spectrum the “great enabler.” And just as electricity enabled private-sector innovation in electrified production, it became our firm belief that spectrum would enable private-sector innovation in whole new business models. So we spent the first several months gathering our data, looking at historical trends and basically trying to get as much input as possible from a variety of sources.

What We Found

With regard to mobility in particular, our biggest finding when we pulled together the National Broadband Plan was that demand for spectrum is increasing faster than just about anyone can imagine. By 2014, mobile data traffic will be 20-50 times higher than it was in 2009, according to estimates from Yankee Group, Coda Research, and Cisco.

There are three drivers of that growth. One, higher usage per person due to new devices. Smartphones like the iPhone can generate 30 times more data traffic than a basic feature phone. Two, higher penetration; more people are using data on mobile devices. And three, a broader set of entities using devices. Experts expect a huge increase in machine-to-machine wireless broadband communications – think wireless-enabled cameras.

Americans are also adopting mobile broadband at a furious pace. Smartphone penetration is already at 33% of mobile subscribers across the four largest operators. But as you know, it takes time – and assertive action – to repurpose spectrum. The process has historically taken 6-13 years. The first step to freeing up cellular spectrum was taken in 1970, but it wasn’t available for use until 1981. The first step to freeing up 700 MHz spectrum was taken in 1996, but it wasn’t available for use until 2009. And when we released the Plan, there was only 50 MHz of spectrum in the pipeline for future use.

So we saw that, without action, we would face a spectrum crunch – some experts said as soon as three years from now – in which demand for spectrum would outpace supply. And if there isn’t enough spectrum, prices will increase, quality will suffer, or both – a suboptimal outcome for consumers, and an outcome that we can actually avoid.

We also found a lack of transparency in spectrum allocation and utilization. Studies suggest that spectrum goes unused in many places much of the time. And nobody really knows how efficiently or effectively privately-licensed spectrum is being utilized – let alone spectrum allocated to the public sector.

Another challenge: Policymakers have few tools to reallocate or repurpose spectrum. Certainly, auction authority in 1993 and the passage of the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act in 2004 have had a huge impact. But it’s becoming more difficult to identify large swaths of spectrum – both federal and commercial – that can be reclaimed for auction, at a time when we face a growing need for spectrum for mobile broadband.

We discovered that the country faced a growing need for backhaul services in rural areas, and that rural providers were increasingly relying on microwave to meet their backhaul needs. But we also discovered that access to backhaul was lacking in terms of capacity, flexibility and affordability – especially as 4G deployments are about to begin.

We found opportunistic access to spectrum to be limited at best. Although unlicensed spectrum has led to many successes – baby monitors, garage door openers and Wi-Fi, to name a few – we found that the federal government could do much more to promote innovation in technologies operating in the unlicensed space, like opportunistic radios.

Finally, we discovered that no comprehensive framework existed for identifying future spectrum bands and needs, or coordinating the multiple national and international stakeholders needed to do this effectively.

Our Recommendations

So we spent much of November, December and January crafting recommendations to address these challenges. I want to quickly touch on the recommendations that we made with regard to spectrum and mobility and let Ruth go into more detail on what the FCC is doing right now to implement those recommendations.

Our most significant recommendation was to make 500 megahertz of spectrum newly available for broadband use within the next ten years. That 500 MHz number came from a model that our team built; analysis will be available this week in a white paper on www.broadband.gov. And so we at the FCC were obviously very pleased to see that in June, President Obama signed an executive memorandum endorsing our goal.

In this Executive Memorandum, the President directed the Department of Commerce – through NTIA – to collaborate with the FCC to make available a total of 500 MHz of federal and non-federal spectrum over the next 10 years for mobile and fixed wireless broadband. The President also asked NTIA to work with the FCC to complete a spectrum timetable for this work. And he ordered NTIA to convene a group representing the Secretaries of Defense, Treasury, Transportation, State, the Interior, Agriculture, Energy, Homeland Security, the Attorney General, NASA, the FAA, the Director of National Intelligence, the Coast Guard and any other executive department authorized to use spectrum to “cooperate fully … in accomplishing” these goals.

To reach the 500 MHz goal – and the National Broadband Plan’s goals - we also thought it was very important to hold ourselves accountable for achieving all the recommendations we set out. So in April we publicly released our Broadband Action Agenda, in which the FCC spelled out 64 actions, proceedings and initiatives that it would undertake over the next year – including 12 just to promote access to spectrum alone. I am proud to say that we at the FCC have achieved a significant amount of that agenda – more than many people thought possible – including all the measures I mentioned earlier. And to talk about our agenda going forward, I’m happy to turn it over to Ruth.

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Remarks of Ruth Milkman
Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, FCC
Law Seminars International
Washington, DC
October 18, 2010


Good morning and thank you to LSI for the invitation to be here today to discuss the work of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau as well some of the issues we are facing as we move forward with the implementation of the National Broadband Plan. 

I also want to thank Michelle Farquhar, Kathleen Ham, and Dale Hatfield for organizing this conference and putting together such an interesting program.  I am sure that the robust dialog that is certain to ensue will positively influence the nature of the policy debates we will find ourselves engaged in going forward. 

Phoebe has laid out for you some of what went into the plan and how the recommendations were developed.  The intellectual rigor that went into the National Broadband Plan provides a solid foundation upon which to build. 

What I would like to focus on for my part of the agenda is where we go from here and some of our priorities and considerations in the implementation phase.  And although it may seem that the broadband plan is all consuming, there are many other important issues, ongoing and novel, that are doing their part to keep the Bureau and the Commission staff quite busy.

In simple terms, the mission of the Wireless Bureau, in implementing the National Broadband Plan and our other work, is to unleash the potential of America’s spectrum resources so that they can be put to the highest and best use.  We will do this by developing and implementing policies that support entrepreneurship and innovation, encourage investment, and facilitate competition and consumer empowerment.

You are all no doubt familiar with the various projections regarding the explosive increases in spectrum demand for coming years, what is sometimes referred to as the “spectrum crunch.”  As Phoebe noted, the Broadband plan called for making 500 MHz additional spectrum available for broadband in order to meet that demand and to ensure that there is fertile ground in which innovation can take root. 

For anyone who has witnessed the growth in wireless data use in recent years, these projections seem, if anything, conservative.  There is really no dispute that we as a nation need access to more spectrum; so the question is, how do we get it? 

Chairman Genachowski has repeatedly made the point that broadband is the future of mobile and mobile is the future of broadband.  It is our goal at the Commission to enable the United States to lead the world in mobile.  Spectrum is the fuel that powers mobile broadband and it is the Bureau’s job to keep it flowing.

But as Chairman Genachowski has pointed out, there is no guarantee that mobile broadband will reach its full potential.

There are several risk factors, but one of the greatest is that we simply do not have enough spectrum to meet new demand.

If America is going to remain at the technological forefront, we need to make sure we have policies in place that enable that demand to be met.  It is our job to make available more spectrum so that companies like yours can compete to bring these innovations to the American consumer.   

Our experience has shown that it takes years to bring more spectrum online: as Phoebe said, anywhere from 6-13 years if we use history as a guide. So we have to start now.  
What happens if there is not sufficient spectrum?  If we don’t have enough spectrum, networks will cost more to build and operate, quality will suffer, and ultimately, prices will be higher. And at some point it is simply impractical to add capacity without adding spectrum.  At the FCC we want to make sure that the United States leads the world in low cost, high performance mobile broadband. So, we have chosen to be proactive.

The National Broadband Plan did make some specific recommendations about particular bands, but much of what we need to do is to identify additional swaths of spectrum and develop methods to repurpose it with minimal disruption to existing users.  We also need to ensure that we have clarity when it comes to the property rights and sharing obligations of spectrum users.

Other recommendations are intended to increase transparency of spectrum licensing and use.  The Wireless Bureau, together with OET, is developing new tools to facilitate efficient spectrum use.  Tools such as the Spectrum Dashboard, which puts extensive information about current spectrum use and availability into an easy to access and understand format on the web for anyone to see.  This is a big step forward in terms of providing people the kind of information they need. 

The Dashboard currently includes the non-Federal bands between 225 MHz and 3.7 GHz, and the plan is to continue development of the tool to include additional bands. While the next full version is now slated for release early next year, we will be making incremental upgrades this month.  By taking this approach, we can ensure that the functionality is thoroughly tested and we can confidently roll out new features more quickly based on feedback from users. If you haven’t already done so, please take a look at Dashboard, and tell us how we can improve it.  

New features already in the pipeline include; tracking of leases; advanced search and filtering capability; information on tribal lands and on licenses that only partially cover counties; and much more.  Ultimately, the recommendation calls for integration of the FCC’s information with similar information provided by our NTIA colleagues on federal spectrum uses. Rob Alderfer, the Wireless Bureau’s chief data officer, will be on the next panel, and will provide additional detail on the Dashboard.
Another recommendation that calls for an FCC/NTIA partnership effort is one that recommends that the two agencies develop scientific and statistically valid methods for measuring where and when spectrum is being used.  The results of such spectrum measurements have the potential to provide valuable data that will inform future policymaking.

And the broadband plan recognizes that it must evolve to accommodate changing circumstances.  Therefore the plan includes a triennial assessment of spectrum allocations to ensure that the nation’s spectrum plan is regularly updated.

The second set of recommendations center around the need for broad reform of spectrum policy to provide market mechanisms that ensure that spectrum is utilized most effectively.

The recommendation that got the most attention was that the Commission make available 500 MHz of spectrum for broadband in the next decade, and 300 MHz for mobile broadband over the next 5 years.  This will be no easy task, but it is one that can be accomplished if we are innovative in our policy approaches.

We have already taken several steps toward reaching this goal.  Last spring the Commission revised its rules to make 25 MHz of 2.3 GHz WCS spectrum immediately available for mobile broadband.  After extensive and rigorous technical analysis, the Commission’s action creates an environment for innovative and cutting edge mobile services while protecting the operations of satellite radio services and aeronautical mobile telemetry in adjacent bands.  

In July the Commission moved forward with another recommendation from the plan to allow flexibility and remove regulatory barriers in order to permit Mobile Satellite Service spectrum to be used for terrestrial services while preserving market-wide MSS capability.   This has the potential to make available up to 90 MHz of prime spectrum for terrestrial mobile broadband, while maintaining the availability of satellite services so many depend on. 

Of all the specific recommendations in the Spectrum section of the National Broadband Plan, the one that got the most attention was probably an innovative idea to give incumbents financial incentives to relinquish licenses, in a way that frees up spectrum for flexible use, including mobile broadband, where those uses provide a higher value.  The Plan recommended that Congress grant the FCC authority to conduct incentive auctions, whereby incumbents, such as broadcasters or MSS licensees, would share in the proceeds of auctions for spectrum they voluntarily relinquish.  This has great potential to accelerate productive use of encumbered spectrum.    With respect to the TV bands, the idea is to provide a market mechanism that would allow broadcasters to volunteer to share channels, move from UHF to VHF, or turn in some or all of their licenses.  This would allow a more efficient “re-packing” of over-the-air Digital TV transmissions, thereby creating contiguous spectrum to be auctioned for flexible use, including mobile broadband.  And of course, broadcasters who had volunteered would share in the auction proceeds.  This new approach requires Congressional action, and bipartisan bills have already been introduced in both the House and the Senate.

The plan also recommended Congressional action to expand the funding for federal users that relocate, and to give the FCC and NTIA authority to impose spectrum fees.  Both ideas are intended to help create incentives for efficient use of spectrum.  These too are approaches that will take time to carefully implement and we look forward to working with NTIA and our other federal partners to make sure that all of our nation’s spectrum is put to its best use.
 
The Plan also addressed the need to make sure there is sufficient spectrum available for wireless backhaul, especially in remote and rural areas where microwave may be the only practical high-capacity solution.  Increasing the capacity of mobile networks will be hampered if there is insufficient cost effective backhaul between cell-sites.  Following the plan’s recommendation, in August the Commission issued an NPRM that proposes to revise the rules for microwave bands below 13 GHz to facilitate greater spectrum sharing and more efficient use.  Through these proposals, an additional 750 MHz of spectrum can be put to use for backhaul or other advanced point-to-point uses.  In addition, the Commission adopted a Notice of Inquiry to look at ways to change our technical rules to allow for more flexibility in power use and antenna configurations. 

Of course, broadband does not only mean licensed services.  There is a great deal of value in having unlicensed bands that encourage new uses.  There is an important lesson in how Wi-Fi and Bluetooth took root in what was once considered a worthless sliver of spectrum, to become nothing short of a phenomenon.

After extensive review of the record, last month the Commission adopted rules for unlicensed use in the TV White Spaces.   With the excellent propagation characteristics of this spectrum, it will enable what some are calling “Super Wi-Fi” that can envelop a campus or neighborhood with a hotspot that today takes dozens of access points to cover.   We also hope to see a flood of innovative new devices taking advantage of access to this new bandwidth. 

In addition, opportunistic uses of radio spectrum, such as cognitive radio and geo-location, represent an important technology advancement that has the potential to radically change how spectrum is utilized in the future.  This is yet another area in which the FCC and NTIA will be working together -- to promote an environment in which these technologies can be developed and improved.

Of course, there are many other things going on in the Bureau and I’d like to mention a few of the highlights for you.  As you might imagine, the Bureau has an enormous workload, but the staff is tremendously talented and up to the task.   As I like to say, we’re a high-volume bureau, and the Commissioners have been great at voting and moving wireless items, but there is always a new issue or development around the corner to keep us busy.

Last November, the Commission adopted the Shot-Clock declaratory ruling which took a step toward facilitating wireless deployment by helping to ensure that the tower permitting processes are resolved in a reasonable time, while respecting and preserving the legitimate interests of local zoning officials.

Earlier this year the Commission adopted an Order on Reconsideration and Second FNPRM on roaming.  It reexamined an earlier determination that excluded from roaming obligations markets in which the requesting carrier had spectrum, even if that spectrum was encumbered.

The item also sought comment on whether and how roaming obligations should be extended to data services.  The Chairman has stated that in order for America to fully realize the economic benefits and other opportunities that broadband brings, consumers must be able to access mobile data wherever and whenever they want.  Data roaming will help ensure that goal is realized. 

And, this year the Commission broke new ground with the release of the 14th Mobile Wireless Competition Report, which is the result of an exhaustive process of research and analysis by staff in the Bureau.  The 14th Report analyzes aspects of the industry not previously covered, and the knowledge and understanding reflected in it will be invaluable in informing much that we do going forward.  We’re hoping to get the 15th report out later this year or early in 2011. 

One of the clear take-aways from the Competition report is that voice is mature, and we are transitioning to a data-centric market.  We’ve gotten to where we are today because competition has driven wireless carriers to innovate, to invest in their networks, and to provide better services at lower prices.   We want to make sure that all the benefits we've seen from competition for wireless voice also extend into the mobile broadband marketplace.

So that means we'll be focused on inputs that all wireless providers need – like spectrum, and backhaul.  And we’ll also work to develop policies in other areas, such as roaming, that support investment and competition and ensure that consumers have good choices available to them. 

Before we take questions, I want to close by saying that in all we do in the Bureau, we are trying to do the right thing, and do it in the right way.  We try not to lose sight of the importance of good government and transparency.  That includes the timely processing of application
s, and making accurate and relevant information readily available to you, consumers, and other stakeholders. It means being fact based and data driven in our rule making processes, giving all valid viewpoints fair consideration.  We all share the same goal of bringing world class technologies and services to the American people. I look forward to continuing a productive dialog with you as we move toward that goal. 

Thank you. And now we would be happy to answer any questions.

-----

Remarks of Julius Knapp
Chief, Office of Engineering and Technology, FCC
4G World
Chicago, IL
October 20, 2010


Good afternoon, and thank you for the invitation to be here today to discuss what the FCC is doing to unleash new spectrum for wireless broadband, as well some of the issues we are facing as we move forward with the implementation of the National Broadband Plan. 

I’m sure you are all familiar with the various projections regarding the explosive increases in spectrum demand for coming years – what is sometimes referred to as the “spectrum crunch.”  As you sit in on the many excellent workshops and presentations at this conference, you can’t help but notice some recurring themes – enormous growth in wireless data traffic brought about by smart phones and devices, the focus on finding creative ways to use the spectrum efficiently, and the need for more spectrum.

There is really no dispute that we as a nation need access to more spectrum; so the question is, how do we get it? 

The Broadband plan called for making an additional 500 MHz of spectrum available for broadband in the next decade, and 300 MHz for mobile broadband over the next 5 years.  This will be no easy task, but it is one that can be accomplished if we are innovative in our policy approaches.

This past June President Obama issued an Executive Memorandum to federal departments and agencies underscoring the importance of identifying spectrum to support our wireless broadband future.  The President tasked the Department of Commerce and its National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to develop a plan for identifying 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband.

The Commerce Department, the NTIA and the federal agencies have been hard at work in developing this plan.  The FCC has been involved in this process as well.  We anticipate that the Commerce will release the plan very soon.

There is spectrum in the pipeline to help meet our needs for the near term.   But the spectrum in the pipeline is not anywhere near what is going to be needed.   Our experience has shown that it takes years to bring more spectrum online: anywhere from 6-13 years if we use history as a guide. So we have to start now.  

We have already taken several steps toward reaching the 500 MHz goal. 

Last spring the Commission revised its rules to make 25 MHz of 2.3 GHz WCS spectrum immediately available for mobile broadband.  After extensive and rigorous technical analysis, the Commission’s action creates an environment for innovative and cutting-edge mobile services while protecting the operations of satellite radio services and aeronautical mobile telemetry in adjacent bands. 
 
In July the Commission moved forward with another recommendation from the plan to allow flexibility and remove regulatory barriers in order to permit Mobile Satellite Service spectrum to be used for terrestrial services while preserving market-wide MSS capability.   This has the potential to make available up to 90 MHz of prime spectrum for terrestrial mobile broadband, while maintaining its availability for the satellite services that so many depend on. 

Of all the specific recommendations in the spectrum section of the National Broadband Plan, the one that probably got the most attention was an innovative idea to give incumbents financial incentives to relinquish licenses, in a way that frees up spectrum for flexible use, including mobile broadband, where those uses provide a higher value.  The Plan recommended that Congress grant the FCC authority to conduct incentive auctions, whereby incumbents, such as broadcasters or MSS licensees, would share in the proceeds of auctions for spectrum they voluntarily relinquish.  This has great potential to accelerate productive use of encumbered spectrum.   

The idea is to provide a market mechanism that would allow broadcasters to volunteer to share channels, move from UHF to VHF, or turn in some or all of their licenses.  This would allow a more efficient “re-packing” of over-the-air digital TV transmissions, thereby creating contiguous spectrum to be auctioned for flexible use, including mobile broadband. 

And broadcasters who had volunteered would share in the auction proceeds.  This new approach requires Congressional action, and bipartisan bills have already been introduced in both the House and the Senate.

The plan also recommended Congressional action to expand the funding for federal users that relocate out of their current spectrum, and to give the FCC authority to impose spectrum fees.  Both ideas are intended to help create incentives for efficient use of spectrum.  This too is an approach that will take time to carefully implement, and we look forward to working with NTIA and our other federal partners to make sure that all of our nation’s spectrum is put to its best use.
 
The Plan also addressed the need to make sure there is sufficient spectrum available for wireless backhaul, especially in remote and rural areas where microwave may be the only practical high-capacity solution.  Increasing the capacity of mobile networks will be hampered if there is insufficient cost effective backhaul between cell-sites.  Following the plan’s recommendation, in August the Commission issued an NPRM that proposes to revise the rules for microwave bands below 13 GHz to facilitate greater spectrum sharing and more efficient use. 

Through these proposals, an additional 750 MHz can be put to use for backhaul or other advanced point-to-point uses.  In addition, the Commission adopted a Notice of Inquiry to look at ways to change our technical rules to allow for more flexibility in power use and antenna configurations. 

Of course, mobile broadband does not only mean licensed services.  There is a great deal of value in having unlicensed bands that encourage new uses.  There is an important lesson in how Wi-Fi and Bluetooth took root in what was once considered a worthless sliver of spectrum, to become nothing short of a phenomenon.

After an extensive review of the record, last month the Commission adopted rules for unlicensed use in the TV white spaces.   With the excellent propagation characteristics of this spectrum, it will enable what some are calling “Super Wi-Fi” that can envelop a campus or neighborhood with a hotspot that today takes dozens of access points to cover.   We also hope to see a flood of innovative new devices to take advantage of access to this new bandwidth. 

In addition, opportunistic uses of radio spectrum, such as cognitive radio and geo-location, represent an important technology advancement that has the potential to radically change how spectrum is utilized in the future.  This is yet another area in which the FCC and NTIA will be working together – to promote an environment in which these technologies can be developed and improved.

There were many other recommendations in the National Broadband Plan that we are implementing, including a spectrum dashboard, methods for measuring spectrum use and   a triennial assessment of spectrum allocations to ensure that the nation’s spectrum plan is regularly updated.

Our focus on spectrum never stops.   Tomorrow the Commission is holding a spectrum workshop at the FCC headquarters.  I invite all of you to attend or watch over the web.

We all share the same goal of bringing world-class technologies and services to the American people.  We look forward to continuing a productive dialogue with you as we move toward that goal. 

Thank you.



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