FCC to vote on proposal to use old NextWave spectrum

The agency, in an October vote, could give AT&T 30MHz of spectrum to deploy LTE

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on a proposal that would allow AT&T to offer mobile broadband service on 20MHz of spectrum it purchased in August along with spectrum holding company NextWave Wireless.

During its Oct. 17 meeting, the FCC is scheduled to vote on a proposal to allow AT&T to use the Wireless Communications Service (WCS) spectrum in the 2.3GHz band in a way that doesn't interfere with Sirius XM Radio, which uses nearby spectrum. In June, AT&T and Sirius offered a series of proposals to allow mobile broadband on the spectrum and minimize interference.

The FCC proposal closely follows the recommendations from AT&T and Sirius, according to a person familiar with the plan.

Among other things, the proposals from AT&T and Sirius would prohibit mobile and portable transmitters in part of the WCS spectrum, and they would lengthen the planned build-out of LTE service in the WCS spectrum.

An AT&T spokesman didn't immediately return a message seeking comment on the FCC's agenda item.

This would be the second recent action taken by the FCC to allow mobile broadband in the WCS band. In May 2010, the agency approved initial rules to allow mobile broadband providers to offer services on 25MHz of the band. That vote opened the door to eventual mobile broadband uses on that portion of the spectrum, in addition to fixed wireless services, which had previously been permitted.

The new FCC proposal would allow mobile broadband on 20MHz of the total 30MHz in the WCS spectrum, according to Tammy Sun, an FCC spokeswoman. The other 10MHz could be available for mobile broadband in the future, she said in an email message.

By opening up the spectrum, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski "continues to leave no stone unturned when it comes to maximizing opportunities to refill the mobile spectrum pipeline that had begun to run dry over the last decade," Sun said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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