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Old TV airwaves to be sold for wireless internet

发布时间:2019-02-27 09:11:09来源:未知点击:

By New Scientist staff and Reuters The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to shake up the US wireless market on Tuesday by approving rules for a big airwaves auction that would require the winner to make them accessible to any wireless device including cell-phones or laptop computers. The sale is likely to begin in December 2007 or January 2008, and the government expects it to raise at least $10 billion from it. The UHF frequencies are being returned by television broadcasters as they move to digital from analogue signals in early 2009. Currently, wireless carriers can restrict the devices that can be used on their networks, and can also limit the software that can be downloaded onto them, such as ringtones, music or games. It is hoped that the auction will lead to greater choice and more flexible wireless services for end users. The access requirement will apply to only part of the spectrum to be sold. Two Republican FCC commissioners, who expressed reservations about the idea, stressed that it will not apply to existing airwaves held by carriers like AT&T and Verizon. The agency stopped short of a broader requirement, sought by potential bidder Google, which would force the winner to resell access to its network on a wholesale basis. Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who proposed the access concept, received support from the agency’s two Democratic commissioners. The two Republican commissioners expressed support for parts of the auction plan but warned the highly tailored access conditions might end up suiting no bidder, and that there could be security concerns if a network operator could not control the applications being used on its airwaves. Martin says he hopes that carriers will apply the policy to their existing airwaves. “I hope that will actually spur a more open platform on this new piece of spectrum,” he says, “but also make sure that some of the benefits of innovation are then able to flow to some of the other networks as well.” The FCC suggested a $4.6 billion minimum price for the block of frequencies that will have the access requirement. If that price is not reached, they will be auctioned again, but without the access requirement, according to the agency. The spectrum being sold can travel long distances and penetrate thick walls, making it potentially very useful for wireless internet. The auction will be carried out with anonymous bidding. Chris King from financial analysts Stifel Nicolaus says that the open access conditions would be disappointing for many service providers. “Opening to any device is probably something the wireless carriers didn’t want to see,” he says. The lack of a wholesale access provision drew criticism from the agency’s two Democrats. “Several sophisticated companies and financial institutions have concluded that wholesale is indeed a viable economic model,” says Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps. “Smaller entrepreneurs deserve an alternate path to wireless access.” Commercial providers will be able to bid for large regional licenses covering some of the allocated frequencies. Another portion of the spectrum will be sold to a non-profit entity for public safety officials to use, although this could also be shared with commercial operators. Supporters of the open-access approach, including Google and some US consumer groups, say it will spur new competition and innovation in the market for wireless services. Google says it would have to review details of the order before deciding whether it would bid in the auction, but praised the decision. “The FCC took some concrete steps on the road to bringing greater choice and competition to all Americans,