Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The 700MHz Auction is Over.

The results are mixed, and we won't know who won, or what that means for our wireless future for a few days.

The good news from the government perspective is that the auction raised almost $20B which is twice what was expected. However the D block (the block that required sharing with Public Safety) did not get to it's minimum bid, and the C block (the block requiring open access) only beat it's reserve price by a few percentage points bringing in a total of $4,744,749,000.

The restrictions clearly hurt the perceived value which makes us think that the big bidders were the "usual suspects". We would expect that Verizon and AT&T will be the big winners. Anybody care to weigh in on alternatives? How about what this does for the future of wireless?

Over the next few days as the details emerge we will be able to determine who the big winners and losers are. Then we can start to discuss how spectrum needs will be met for all those who could not or did not participate.

One final thought, divide the $19.5B price tag by the size of the USA (3.79m sq miles) and divide by 52 (the number of MHz actually auctioned) and the price paid averages out to be $98 per MHz/sq mile over the 10 years of the initial license.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Different Perspective on Spectrum

One of the basic tenants of our philosophy is that not all spectrum is created equal. A slice of spectrum has a different value dependent on time, location and application. The following link for an article in Wireless Design Asia has an interesting view of the issues that treating all spectrum the same can cause

Wireless Design Asia - Will US 700MHz Auction Be Remembered for Dismembering Wireless?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Every Blog has to Start Somewhere…

So I found myself staring at a blank screen thinking how do I make this relevant, useful and, valuable to anyone who reads it? So sticking to the tradition that a blog is a conversation let me start by telling you a story: Why did we start Spectrum Bridge and why do we think it will be successful?

We have spent most of our working lives in the communications industry and the wireless industry in particular - much of it providing wireless solutions to industries that need wireless communications as a business tool. In the days of two-way voice and push to talk communication this was pretty easy. But now those same enterprise customers need broadband data applications, everything from telemetry to remote desktops, video surveillance and mobile workers. These applications require bandwidth far in excess of a voice application. Voice can be compressed into a 12.5 kHz channel where as a video needs at least 20 times that much spectrum.

So where was all this spectrum to come from? New Spectrum allocations from the FCC are few and far between. What little is available (witness the current 700MHz auctions) is gobbled up by wireless titans like AT&T and Verizon for billions of dollars.

The only viable solution for enterprises today is to run in one of the unlicensed bands, either 2.4GHz or 5.8GHz, sometimes known as the ISM and UNII bands. The great thing about these bands is they are free. But, as with most things, you get what you pay for. The Part 15 radios that are certified for unlicensed operation are very low power and use contention based access which means that the coverage model is challenged and the QOS cannot be guaranteed. These are not things that an enterprise can compromise on for mission critical applications.

However if you break down a typical 700MHz auction bid, it translates into roughly $2,000 per square mile. So having a capability to disaggregate spectrum into small geographic areas was one of the basic ideas that became Spectrum Bridge. We knew of many enterprises that could afford a few thousand dollars per year to guarantee their access to spectrum. In many cases the cost could be instantly recouped because the capital cost of the equipment was much lower.

Deploying WiFi in the ISM band requires anywhere from 18-50 Access Points per square mile. Yet deploy a private WiMax network in the EBS band and the number of base stations required is 2-5. So even though the WiMax equipment is relatively expensive today compared to WiFi the overall cost is significantly lower, and we all expect WiMax equipment to get much cheaper as volumes increase.

Once we figured out how to disaggregate spectrum and manage its use to the satisfaction of the spectrum holder, the user and the FCC - the basic capability existed to turn spectrum into a commodity that could be traded on an open market. We believe this is by far the fairest and most efficient way to treat such a precious national resource. In effect the spectrum is always being used to provide the most economic benefit to the community.

Well it seems that I touched a lot of different topics here. Over the coming months we will discuss these and additional topics that catch our attention. Any thoughts or comments you may have are welcomed. Hopefully these will guide us to providing answers and information that keeps you coming back to visit.

-Peter Stanforth, CTO, Spectrum Bridge, Inc.