FCC: On Track to Free Up 300 MHz-Plus by 2015

Commission Looking Hard at Receivers' Role in Spectrum Initiative
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An FCC official plans to tell Congress that the commission is on track to exceed its 300 MHz by 2015 goal for freeing up spectrum for mobile wireless broadband and is looking hard at the issue of receiver performance in light of that effort.

That is according to Ron Repasi, deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Office of Engineering and Technology, in prepared testimony for a hearing Thursday on "The Role of Receivers in a Spectrum-Scarce World."

Repasi also said the FCC was working on defining harmful interference and how to protect existing services while allowing for adjacent new services, an issue that is growing in importance as the FCC frees up more spectrum. That includes through incentive spectrum auctions aiming to get up to 120 MHz from broadcasters, though it is likely to be less than that.

The FCC's Technological Advisory Council has been looking at the role of receivers and Repasi says that one approach that has been discussed is "based on developing interference protection limits that would define what signal levels services would be expected to tolerate from adjacent services. A licensee would need to demonstrate that it is experiencing signal levels above the limit in order to make a claim of harmful interference," he says. "The TAC is considering whether the interference protection limits might be established through a multistakeholder process and whether rules would be appropriate."

While Repasi points out that receiver performance has generally been left to the marketplace, that is not always the case "because receivers can sometimes pick up energy outside the spectrum provided for the service in which they operate." That was the case for LightSquared, which got a conditional waiver to use spectrum adjacent to GPS, but had that waiver put on indefinite hold because GPS receivers were receiving out-of-band transmissions.

"Receiver performance is becoming increasingly important as a limiting factor as we move to repurpose spectrum and pack more services closer together on the spectrum chart. The continuing challenge for the commission will be to maximize the amount of usable spectrum for cost effective deployment of new communication services while sufficiently protecting incumbent receivers," he said.

That is the balancing test the FCC was apparently applying when FCC chairman Julius Genachowski recently proposed putting limitations on spectrum rights owned by Dish -- for a planned 4G wireless broadband service -- in spectrum adjacent to a block the FCC will be auctioning, also for wireless broadband.