Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski Wednesday raised doubts that the agency would be able to figure out just what the spectrum demands of the broadband nation will be, but made it clear that the wireless industry would need more.
The FCC's Wireless bureau chief added that it would need to find it quickly, while broaband advisor Blair Levin said some broadcasters had been receptive to suggestions that they give up some of their.
"I am not confident that we will identify the spectrum we will need to meet the demands of the country," he told reporters Wednesday following an FCC public meeting featuring a status report on the gaps between where the nation is and needs to be in terms of broadband deployment.
Genachowski said he thinks much work must be done by all parts of the broaband "ecosystem" (a term echoed throughout the meeting to suggest the holistic approach necessary to solve the problem of broadband deployment and adoption).
He said not meeting those spectrum demands is one of the "main risks" to a successful plan.
Genachowski said the answer has mutliple parts, one of which is identifying sufficient spectrum, another is finding ways to use spectrum more efficiently, as well as having more efficient devices.
"But so far, what we are seeing in the record suggests that identifying additional spectrum for mobile broadband will need to be part of the solution."
Genachowski pointed out that it takes a long time--an average of over nine years--to get spectrum back, so there will be no "instant spectrum recovery."
During the meeting, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau chief Ruth Milkman talked about the time it took to recover the spectrum, and contrasted that with data from Cisco suggesting that consumer use of mobile services would increase at a compound rate of 129% annually between 2008 and 2013. She said the FCC needed to look at spectrum needs comprehensively "and quickly."
Pointing to the 6-13 years it takes to recover spectrum--Genachwoski split the difference for the 9-plus-year figure--Milkman said that since they know there is a looming gap, time is of the essence. "In our world, she said, 2013 is just around the corner. "We need to develop solutions right now."
FCC broadband advisor Blair Levin, also talking to reporters after the meeting, confirmed Wednesday that the FCC has not yet given broadcasters a specific proposal for reclaming spectrum for wireless broadband. He said that was because the broadband team was still trying to figure out the best way to proceed.
But he also said some broadcasters liked the sound of the ideas that had been floated. "We have thrown out some ideas and concepts, run some scenarios by some broadcasters. Some of them like them, some of them don't," he said. He would not specify which were which, echoing comments he made to Multichannel News that he did not want to negotiate in the press.
One of the ideas being floated is concentrating several broadcast signals in a market on less bandwidth, paying broadcasers to give up the remaining spectrum.
Levin was talking to reporters at a press conference Wednesday following a public meeting status report at the FCC on the progress of the national broadband plan, which Levin is heading up. Levin said he not seen any "serious data" to suggest there was enough spectrum "in the pipeline" for the next 10 years.
Levin said he hoped that some broadcasters would suggest some ideas to the commission. "Maybe that will happen, maybe that won't," he said.
At a speech at the Media Institute in Washington Tuesday, National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith said his group was open to ideas, but not to ideas that would mean giving up high-definition signals, multicast channels or mobile DTV.