FCC aims to free up wireless space

AMSTERDAM - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took the first steps Friday toward opening up more spectrum for wireless and broadcast services to vendors trying to prepare for next-generation networks.

The FCC embarked on plans to reallocate spectrum currently used by television channels. The spectrum, between 698Mhz and 746Mhz, will become available as TV broadcasters move from analog to digital transmission systems. The Commission hopes to begin auctions for the 48Mhz of freed spectrum by September 2002, according to a statement.

Over the next 6 years, broadcasters will work to move all existing analog systems over to a digital format. The FCC wants at least 85 percent of consumers to have digital TV receivers before making the spectrum switch. If this transition comes later rather than sooner, the Commission set a proposed 2006 deadline for the move.

As competition remains fierce for available spectrum, the FCC asked for comments on its auction proposal regarding who should license, operate and bid on the lower 700Mhz band. Broadcasters and carriers will work to come up with proposals regarding usage and allocation of the spectrum.

Carriers hope to use the new waves to improve wireless services for consumers. Beyond providing better coverage, the freed space could lead to better Internet access over Web-enabled wireless devices.

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