WiMAX and LTE set to battle over US D block

Ken Wieland, Contributing Editor

September 9, 2008

2 Min Read
WiMAX and LTE set to battle over US D block

US communications regulator the FCC is to take another crack at auctioning off the so called ‘D block’ of 700MHz spectrum, with FCC chairman Kevin Martin proposing new and more attractive conditions.

Earlier this year, the D block was one of eight licences that remained unsold after failing to meet its reserve price of $1.3bn in the 700MHz auction, which raised a total of $19.6bn for the US Treasury.

The general consensus was that there were too many requirements attached to the D block and in a subsequent request for comments the FCC asked whether it remains in the public interest to retain a public/private partnership between the D block licensee and the public safety broadband licensee.

The latest proposal seems to indicate that it does and it doesn’t. Under Martin’s latest proposal, the D block spectrum auction will be split into two parts: one for a single national licence, with a minimum reserve price of $750m, which will allow the licensee to offer commercial services, with the previous requirement that it must also share the spectrum with public safety organisations; and a second auction comprising 58 separate regional licences.

The caveat for the regional auctions is that, collectively, the licence winners must raise more money than the sum paid for by the national licensee.

And, should the national licence bid fail to meet the reserve price, the D block auction, under Martin’s proposals, would turn into a straight fight between LTE and WiMAX. Apparently, whichever technology proponents – LTE or WiMAX – raise most money or cover more of the population, this has to be the technology used by all the other D block users. The FCC would then re-auction the spectrum secured by the ‘losing’ technology and invite new bids for the ‘winning’ technology as a replacement.

The FCC is expected to consider Martin’s proposals on September 25, which is when we hope for greater clarity on what is actually being proposed.

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