Spectrum fight looms

By Jennifer Jones, InfoWorld |  Networking

FED UP WITH the government's high-priced wireless auctions, which arguably favor larger players, a group of smaller wireless data providers has mobilized in their quest for now-scarce broadcasting spectrum.

The newly formed TDD Coalition aims to convince federal policy-makers that wireless data applications take a backseat to immediately lucrative voice offerings -- a fact they argue will cost the United States in the long run.

The group of 12 vendors derives its name from their use of TDD (Time Division Duplex) technology. TDD takes up less spectrum because a single block of spectrum is used for both uplink and downlink connections.

Most wireless vendors -- and especially wireless voice service providers -- rely on FDD (Frequency Division Duplex) technology which requires separate blocks for each, explained Bradley Holmes, senior vice president of regulatory and government affairs at ArrayCom, in San Jose, Calif.

ArrayCom is a TDD Coalition member along with Harris, IP Wireless, and Radiant Networks.

Holmes said the group is now actively lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to consider setting aside spectrum for TDD in any upcoming 3G (third generation) wireless auctions. Alternately, the group would like the FCC to declare 5MHz to 10MHz of existing spectrum open to TDD vendors.

"It is unreasonable for us to go up against big players for paired spectrum," Holmes said. "We only need half that spectrum. Why would we bid double the price for two blocks of spectrum?"

Holmes said TDD companies, many of which are research and development companies, are now the "victims of high-priced auctions."

Without relief in the form of affordable bandwidth, many of those vendors might have to go overseas for spectrum with which to develop and deploy their technologies, Holmes said.

"Wouldn't it be ironic if the technology were deployed first overseas and then imported back into the United States by us five years from now?" Holmes added.

Analyst Elliott Hamilton at Washington-based Strategis Group agreed that TDD vendors are now shut out of spectrum under the FCC's current regime. "The spectrum rules that are now in place don't really permit TDD technology," he said.

Hamilton surmised that TDD exclusion is mostly the result of the FCC's use of "outdated" spectrum management rules.

Hamilton said the FCC will ultimately have to rethink the way it allocates spectrum.

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