Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alternative Spectrum Solutions - Providing Nationwide Broadband Access

Among the flurry of discussion surrounding the FCC’s National Broadband Plan to be released next week, two issues as previously outlined by Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC, have received a great deal of attention within the industry. The first being the goal of boosting national access speeds to 100 Mbps for 100 million homes by 2020, and the second goal of freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum over the next decade by allowing broadcast television stations to sell some of their spectrum for mobile broadband purposes. While neither has been set in stone, the costs associated with these goals have been enough to spark heated discussions and commentary on blogs and articles over the past few weeks.

In an article from 4GWE, the estimated combined costs of these goals will take an investment of up to $500 billion. While this is no small number, the benefits of these two aspects of the plan are enormous – bringing broadband capabilities to every corner of the country will provide new opportunities to millions of Americans. Broadband has become a necessity in this day and age to enable more Americans to stay connected to the ever-changing world around them. However, as found in the Broadband Adoption and Use in America study by the FCC, 35% of Americans do not have broadband at home, with the top reason for non-adoption being cost – whether it be the cost of services, computers, installation fees, or a combination of all three.


In order to justify the purchase of additional spectrum to accommodate both goals of speed and coverage, some costs must be passed onto the consumer. The FCC’s broadband study found that on average, Americans pay nearly $41 a month for broadband service. Additionally, the study found that non-adopters were willing to pay an average of $25 per month for broadband. Currently, the only company that offers speeds of 100 Mbps charges $100 per month, and costs are not expected to decrease any time soon. Would consumers be willing to take on more costs to attain higher speeds in more places?


Given the enormity of the task at hand in conjunction with the limitations of cost, we must consider alternative solutions in order to serve all markets nationwide at the high-speed connectivity we have grown accustomed to. This involves creating a more efficient use of existing spectrum and exploring unconventional opportunities such as white spaces networks in order to provide better access nationwide.

The idea of providing nationwide broadband access corresponds with Spectrum Bridge’s vision of Universal Spectrum Access (USA), which increases spectrum availability, and hence bandwidth, through a secondary market exchange, allows access for all consumers, and optimizes the allocation of spectrum resources based on current demand. There are a few different alternatives as far as making Universal Spectrum Access possible.


The use of a secondary market, such as SpecEx, allows companies to locate available spectrum and therefore better serve their consumers by expanding their networks. By repurposing TV White Spaces left behind by the digital TV transition, we can create networks in areas that geography and service previously would not allow (Claudville, Wilmington). Finally, the efficient allocation of bandwidth will allow us to better manage new and existing spectrum through tools such as SmartWaves. By adopting the USA approach to spectrum, we can better utilize bandwidth, more efficiently use the finite supply of spectrum and enhance network performance for nationwide broadband consumers.

-Joe Hamilla
Co-founder, Chief Operations Officer