Time Warner Calls for Expansion of Unlicensed Spectrum Bands

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By Tim McElgunn  

Oct. 10 --The United States must significantly expand the amount of spectrum available for both licensed and unlicensed use if it is to meet the needs of mobile users, Time Warner Cable said last week in a report by its Research Program on Digital Communications.

In the report, “Solving the Spectrum Crunch: Unlicensed Spectrum on a High-Fiber Diet,”author Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at the New America Foundation says, “As fiber and other high-capacity wireline networks become more widely available, the ability of mobile devices to transmit data short distances over shared spectrum into less traffic-sensitive wired networks can replace the 'spectrum crunch' with wireless bandwidth abundance. The key policy obstacle to this positive outcome is progress on the FCC's effort to open the most underused bands of spectrum--particularly federal spectrum and portions of the mostly empty TV band--for unlicensed sharing.”

The report focuses mainly on unlicensed spectrum, which the author says is critical to the expansion of Wi-Fi networks, such as those offered by cable operators, including Time Warner, as part of the industry's CableWiFi agreement. CableWiFi makes more than 200,000 hotspots available to its members' high-speed data subscribers.

Specifically, the report calls on the Federal Communications Commission and other government agencies to:

• Reorganize spectrum assignments in the TV band spectrum as part of its upcoming spectrum auction, freeing up at least 30-40 MHz of spectrum for unlicensed use in every market, including channel 37 and the two TV band channels that have been reserved for wireless microphones;

• Open underutilized government spectrum in the 3.5-3.7 GHz band for sharing with unlicensed use; and

• Move quickly on an FCC proposal to expand use of the 5 GHz band and loosen restrictions on its use, subject to interference protections.

Calabrese also notes that, “gigabit Wi-Fi is currently not possible in any unlicensed frequency band suitable for Wi-Fi deployment in the U.S. today due to FCC rules.”

The report concludes that, “Unleashing an abundance of spectrum and driving down its cost as an input for all things mobile is…the single best means by which the federal government can promote innovation and consumer welfare in wireless.”

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim McElgunn in Cherry Hill, NJ at tmcelgunn@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bob Emeritz in Washington at bemeritz@bna.com