CTIA SUPER MOBILITY 2015, LAS VEGAS: FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is “supremely confident” that next year’s US incentive auction will be held as scheduled on 29 March, and welcomed the addition of the country’s broadcasters into the process.
Wheeler, who was speaking at the opening keynote, said it had taken the regulator four years to get to this position, where it is due to auction off much sought after 600MHz spectrum after almost two years of delays.
Addressing the delays directly, Wheeler said preparing for the auction “was like building a Swiss watch. There are so many moving parts.”
He confirmed the FCC will provide further details for the process in October, before inviting broadcasters and wireless players to register their interests to participate in November, adding that any party could pull out if the prices set were deemed too high.
Wheeler, however, remains confident. “This type of auction has never been done in the world before, but broadcasters will show up and there will be demand from new entrants,” he said. “The auction is like a Rubix cube because there are so many pieces that need to fit together.”
“A year from today, at the next CTIA show, we will have concluded a successful incentive auction.”
The broadcast spectrum up for grabs is designed to boost operators’ data through faster speeds and lower latency, and Wheeler said the planned auction was further indication that the regulator was working to free up much needed spectrum for the industry.
Earlier in the day CTIA CEO Meredith Attwell Baker , who opened up this year’s event, controversially claimed “there was no plan after next year’s auction”, which would only address demand up to 2020.
“We need 350MHz up to 2020, and we need more spectrum to cover the rest,” she said. “Today, we need a national recommitment for more spectrum to serve as our bridge to 5G.”
Wheeler dismissed the claims, insisting that “there is a plan”.
“You’ve got to have more spectrum,” he said. “By 2020, even if operators offloaded all the traffic they have on their networks to Wi-Fi, they’ll still be all out.”
Following Verizon’s announcement earlier this week that it will hold 5G field trials next year, Wheeler also threw his weight behind the US effort towards developing the technology.
Wheeler heralded the FCC’s role in making the country “the world leader in 4G”, by freeing up spectrum at the time, and stated it “would maintain that in 5G”.
He also suggested that next year’s auction of 600MHz could be the first stepping stone towards prospective 5G spectrum, stating that nothing “in the rules of spectrum suggests the incentive auction cannot be used for 5G development”.
“600MHz could make a great home for 5G,” he said.