Category Archives: Spectrum Exhaust

Why the FCC Should Not “Tax” Efforts to Repurpose Spectrum…

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The mobile revolution is threatened today by the lack of sufficient commercial spectrum to satiate America’s ever-increasing appetite for wireless devices.  While efforts are underway to hold voluntary incentive auctions for broadcast spectrum and to free-up unused or underutilized government spectrum, most agree that these initiatives are years away from putting spectrum in the hands of commercial users and will be insufficient standing alone to resolve spectrum exhaust even if fully successful.  As a result, the spectrum community is now exploring ways to repurpose spectrum from lower- to higher-valued uses to satisfy the growing demand.  For example, we have recently Continue Reading »

The Curious Case of the FCC’s Spectrum Screen NPRM…

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With the ever-present specter of spectrum exhaust hanging over the wireless industry, policymakers are constantly faced with the corresponding question of how to allocate spectrum among competing providers to ensure that market does not devolve into one with “excessive” concentration under Section 309(j)(3)(B) of the Communications Act.  Since the 1990’s, the FCC has tried a variety of approaches—from outright spectrum caps to the current and more flexible case-by-case “spectrum screen”—to try to manage its statutory charge.  As to be expected given the huge stakes at hand, stakeholders vehemently disagree as to the best approach moving forward (particularly with the new Continue Reading »

Susan Crawford and the Economics of the Wireless Industry…

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Last week, Professor Susan Crawford authored an op-ed entitled What’s Good for Verizon and AT&T Is Terrible for American Consumers.  While Professor Crawford’s emotional argument is a bit scattered, her depiction of an industry in transition provides a useful foundation for discussing the future of broadband in the United States. First, Professor Crawford argues that wireless broadband is a “commodity,” and one that consumers are increasingly using as a substitute for traditional “voice” and “texting” services.  This substitution is arguably true and, as such, we should therefore expect to see broadband providers increasingly employing and experimenting with a variety of Continue Reading »

What the United States Can Learn From OFCOM’s Olympic Spectrum Plan…

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With the Olympic Games opening tonight, it doesn’t take a PhD in electrical engineering to recognize that the broadband infrastructure in the United Kingdom will be stretched to its limits.  According to a recent article, in order to accommodate the huge spike in expected traffic, the Olympics network will span 30,000 connections across 94 locations and will include: 5,500 kilometres of new fiber optic cables; 2,200 switches; 1,800 wireless access points; 7,000 cable TV sockets; 16,500 telephones; and 65,000 active network ports (active connections). But with nearly a million people expected to attend the Games—nearly all of which will be Continue Reading »

Senator Kohl, Wireless Economics and the “Public Interest” Standard…

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Last week, Senator Herb Kohl, the powerful Chairman of the Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Sub-Committee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski informing them that he “believes” that the pending acquisition of unused spectrum by Verizon from a consortium of cable companies “presents serious competition concerns.”  In support of this position, Senator Kohl not only argues that there is excess concentration in the current wireless market (dominated by Verizon and AT&T), but that the transaction would allow a “dominant firm” to gain “access to essential inputs needed Continue Reading »

Julius Genachowski’s Speech at CTIA…

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In his recent keynote speech at the CTIA show in New Orleans, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski reiterated his (and the industry’s) concern that the “demand for mobile services is on pace to exceed the capacity of our mobile networks” and, therefore, we must “tackle the capacity challenge.” The Chairman has previously foretold of a future where spectrum exhaust could make “consumers […] face slower speeds, more dropped connections, and higher prices.” Plainly, spectrum exhaust remains a key challenge for both mobile service providers and policymakers. The Chairman also took the chance in his CTIA speech to challenge what Continue Reading »

Does Political “Kabuki Theater” Help or Hurt the Regulatory Review Process?

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Recently, The Hill reported that Representatives Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo—the ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, respectively—wrote a letter to Committee Chairman Fred Upton calling for a hearing to examine the proposed sale of wireless spectrum to Verizon by a consortium of cable companies.  Without question, Congress has the authority to hold a hearing on anything they deem relevant at any time they want.  That said, and with all due respect to the powers of the legislative branch, it is unclear what a politically-charged hearing would contribute at this Continue Reading »

A Response to Steven Crowley at GigaOm…

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This past February, we released a paper entitled Wireless Competition After Spectrum Exhaust.  As far as we can tell, this paper was the first serious attempt to model the effect of spectrum exhaust on mobile wireless competition.  We found that the addition of a binding capacity constraint (i.e., spectrum exhaust) to the standard Cournot model of competition reveals that that fewer—not more—firms would lead to lower price, more investment, and more jobs.  Our paper, not unexpectedly, raised a few eyebrows.  (For a CliffsNotes summary of our paper, see my February 8, 2012 blog post.) This weekend, Steven Crowley at GigaOm, Continue Reading »

Should Content Providers be Allowed to Contribute to the Cost of Mobile Bandwidth?

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A recent article in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention, and I’m sure the attention of many others.  The article—AT&T May Try Billing App Makers (February 28, 2012)—reported that AT&T and content providers were discussing ways in which the providers of mobile content, like video streaming, could pay for (in whole or part) the cost of the data traffic on behalf of the end user.  According to the article, the interest in a content-payer system is being encouraged by content developers that “could use the feature to drum up new business from customers wary of using data-heavy services like Continue Reading »

Are Spectrum Caps Back?

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As the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.”  Well, in the case of spectrum policy, we got our wish this month when President Obama signed into law the Payroll Tax Extension bill which contained sweeping provisions to free up much-needed new commercial spectrum. While the implementation of the specific provisions of such ambitious legislation will no doubt be complex and arduous, I would like to touch on two general themes in this particular post. First, we at the Phoenix Center are very proud that our research helped contribute to get the D Block assigned to public safety Continue Reading »