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FCC circulates proposals to repurpose, auction spectrum

Chairman Julius Genachowski announced several proposals on Tuesday evening.

Chairman Julius Genachowski announced several proposals on Tuesday evening. // FCC

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced several proposals on Tuesday evening aimed at making more spectrum available for mobile wireless networks.

The most-watched proposals circulating at the agency involve a swath of spectrum that Dish Network wants to use to build a network. That bandwidth is currently restricted to use for satellite communication, but the company wants to use it for ground-based networks.

In a connected move, Genachowski also said he is circulating proposals to auction off a bandwidth known as the "H-Block" for use by companies, as mandated by Congress.

“If approved, these actions will promote competition, investment and innovation, and advance commission efforts to unleash spectrum for mobile broadband to help meet skyrocketing consumer demand, while unlocking billions of dollars of value to the public,” an FCC spokesman said in a statement.

Dish praised the announcement but complained that the proposal, the details of which were not released, would limit its ability to use major portions of the satellite spectrum.

“While the FCC’s proposed order, based on reported accounts, does properly address some of the opportunities with this spectrum, it’s significantly flawed by introducing serious limitations that impair its utility,” R. Stanton Dodge, Dish executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “While the FCC would grant full terrestrial rights, its proposal to lower our power and emissions levels could cripple our ability to enter the business.”

Sprint has argued that if Dish’s requests are granted without the limits on power and emission levels, the new network could interfere with the new H-Block spectrum, and potentially current wireless networks.

“We remain hopeful that the commissioners will decide to support Dish’s plans to build a new wireless network, while taking the steps necessary to protect Sprint’s PCS spectrum holdings and other adjacent 2 GHz terrestrial spectrum, and welcome the commission’s plans to auction the adjacent spectrum,” Sprint spokesman John Taylor said.

Dish says the limits mean less spectrum is available for consumers to use, while Sprint counters that Dish should be held to the same standards as everyone else.

The FCC completely blocked a similar effort by LightSquared earlier this year when it said the company could not develop its satellite spectrum for ground networks until it resolved interference caused to GPS devices.

Also on Tuesday, Genachowski circulated a third proposal that would allow companies to share portions of government spectrum for commercial use.

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