Friday, May 29, 2009

South Carolina Announces Successful Bidders for its Statewide WiMax Spectrum

The South Carolina Educational Broadband Service (EBS) Commission has recommended leasing spectrum to service providers to create accessible broadband to the populace. Clearwire and Digital Bridge would be allowed to lease up to 95% of South Carolina’s ETV’s unused spectrum.

Clearwire and Digital Bridge have committed to offering WiMax technology across the state. In exchange, the two companies would pay nearly $143 million over the course of a 30-year lease into a state general fund, including $7 million upfront.

“The proposal is a great opportunity for South Carolina,” said Neil Mellen, a committee member. “State government will enjoy much-needed revenues for basic services, such as school teachers and public safety, while the lion’s share of the spectrum will be in the hands of those most capable of successfully building it out: dedicated commercial providers. That means broader access, expanded service and lower rates for Internet access throughout South Carolina.”

But Brett Bursey, director of the S.C. Progressive Network stated “This is taxpayer-funded, the millions of dollars South Carolinians have put into building up the broadcast system could and should have resulted in the nation’s first statewide free wireless system.”

After review by a Joint Bond Review Committee, the State Budget and Control Board will have the final say on the proposal next month.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tyco Electronics to Build New Rapid Transit Communications System

The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) agency is now working with Tyco Electronics to deploy a new type of critical communications system. Called OpenSky, the technology will allow tracking of fixed route busses with GPS and provide frequencies to DART Police, light rail, para transit and vehicle lane operations. In addition, rider information such as rail to bus transitions will be linked and tracked.

When complete, the OpenSky solution will be able to handle over 3,000 indoor/outdoor radio users on a cutting edge private voice and data system covering 13 cities. It is based on the widely-accepted IS-732 protocol to support mobile applications with end-to-end TCP/IP connectivity.

Initially operating on DART's 800 and 900 spectrum, the system is a prime example of transportation agencies using wireless to enhance rider experience and streamline operations.

Although DART appears to have sufficient spectrum on-hand for this deployment, other agencies who do not have enough spectrum already available to deploy similar systems can readily buy or lease suitable spectrum on the secondary (i.e. open) market.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Should the FCC Scrap the D-Block Auction Process?

A major carrier is asking the FCC and Congress not to re-auction the 700 MHz D-Block and instead directly allocate it to public safety agencies.

Steve Zipperstein (pictured) of Verizon Wireless spoke in Washington DC on allocating the D-Block to First Responders to deploy an interoperable network. Mr. Zipperstein, Vice President for Legal and External Affairs and Verizon’s General Counsel, called on the FCC to avoid requiring deployment of a specific technology, but instead to create “a national technical framework” that would create an interoperable network based on an open IP backbone.

Giving the spectrum directly to public safety agencies free of charge would be appealing to these agencies, and it also eliminates the prospect of a commercial carrier obtaining spectrum and creating a potential nationwide competitor to Verizon (and AT&T).

This somewhat self-serving interest notwithstanding, the plan would ultimately hand 700 MHz to First Responders - which isn’t a bad idea in itself.

To read more on Verizon's request, click here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Clearwire's Spectrum Holdings Could Fuel Its Strategic Investors' Wireless Ambitions

As Clearwire fends off a class action lawsuit and acknowledges they will need billions more of investment dollars to complete their nationwide build out, one asset they hold is still keeping their strategic corporate backers smiling.

Clearwire claims to hold more valuable spectrum than any other U.S. wireless operator. To investors such as Google, Comcast, Intel and Time Warner, the frequencies mean more than just airwaves to experiment with; they could provide the spectrum needed to fuel their own wireless network ambitions.

This could give these Clearwire investors a way to directly compete with incumbent wireless carriers – with or without Clearwire’s network. It could also put more rational competitors, like Microsoft and wire line telephone companies on the defensive since they do not have ready access these massive spectrum assets.

No matter where Clearwire is headed, it will be interesting to see how their spectrum is ultimately utilized.