LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILITY LIVE, ATLANTA: Having singled out spectrum as one of the FCC’s biggest challenges at this event two years ago, FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel continues to believe the issue is critical and hinted at plans to launch a high-band spectrum incentive auction.
She hailed the organisation’s incentive auction in the 600MHz band, which involves asking broadcasters to return spectrum they may not be using so the FCC can sell it to operators for use in mobile broadband.
“We sweeten the pot by offering existing broadcasters a cut from the proceeds of the sale,” she said, describing the process as a “really elegant, academic concept” that the FCC is proud of.
The process is ongoing and is expected to finish by early 2017.
If the FCC succeeds in this auction structure in the low band spectrum, they will export it to higher band airwaves. Rosenworcel also sees it as a model international markets could adopt.
As for 5G, she said millimetre wave spectrum is “the stuff that takes you to infinity and beyond,” and the US has set aside 11GHz of high band spectrum for mobile broadband, which operators are testing.
Rosenworcel believes any good spectrum policy must include unlicensed spectrum, adding that with half of operator traffic offloaded onto unlicensed spectrum, it is already a big part of the US wireless ecosystem.
And apart from spectrum, she said the FCC also needs to do more work on what is on the ground, with the deployment of towers and small cells a “big task as we head into 5G”.
She also argued old laws and policies are an impediment to progress that need to be fixed, and that the FCC would like to run a contest to encourage towns to become the first to become 5G capable.
The FCC wants to speed up work on experimental licencing policies to create sandboxes for cities to improve traffic lights, reduce parking tickets and make people healthier, said Rosenworcel.
She also said one of her “irritations” is that when it comes to IoT people talk about being able to see what is inside a consumer’s fridge, but that is really not one of the best use cases. Making streets safer, cutting commuter times and making health care personal is where the focus should be.
On the topic of the role the FCC could play on AT&T’s potential $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, she said she wasn’t able to comment but that it is “clearly a transaction of enormous size and scope and it will get the highest level of scrutiny”.