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FCC's Spectrum Task Force makes first snatch-and-grab, kidnaps up to 90MHz from satellite band

Sean Hollister

Even if you're the Federal Communications Commission, freeing up half a gigahertz of wireless spectrum isn't an easy task, but things become easier when you have top men on the job. The FCC's freshly deputized Spectrum Task Force may have just proven its worth, by shifting up to 90MHz from mobile satellite services to cellular broadband. To placate those who might be opposed to the measure, the FCC says it "remains firmly committed" to rural, emergency and government satellites, plus points out precedents like the SkyTerra LTE deal in March... but interestingly the Task Force neither mentions support for commercial satellite uses, nor which companies stand to gain the freed spectrum this time. Full press release after the break.

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Washington, D.C. -- Today, the Federal Communications Commission Spectrum Task Force announced a plan to increase value, utilization, and investment in mobile satellite service (MSS) bands, which will kick off with a Commission proceeding in July.

"One of the FCC's oldest and most important responsibilities is to develop wireless spectrum policies that stimulate investment and keep pace with innovation," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. "This Spectrum Task Force initiative will open the door to exciting new opportunities in mobile -- new networks, new devices, new competition, and new technologies. The mobile broadband revolution is upon us, the opportunities are huge, and the FCC is committed to ensuring that America has the spectrum it needs to lead the world."

The National Broadband Plan, delivered to Congress in March, outlined a comprehensive strategy for making 500 MHz of spectrum available for wireless broadband services by 2020, a strategy that Chairman Julius Genachowski charged the newly created Spectrum Task Force with overseeing.

"The Spectrum Task Force has already begun executing the Commission's spectrum agenda, consistent with the spectrum plan outlined in the National Broadband Plan," said Ruth Milkman, Co-Chair of the Task Force. "Job number one is to make more spectrum available for flexible use, including terrestrial mobile broadband."

The FCC has taken important steps to put the spectrum strategy into action. Shortly after the broadband plan's release, the FCC approved the Harbinger-SkyTerra transaction, which will enable Harbinger to invest billions of dollars in building a 4G wireless network using spectrum that includes the MSS bands. In May, the Commission adopted the WCS-SDARS Order, making 25 MHz of spectrum available for mobile broadband services.

Today, the Spectrum Task Force announced a proceeding to unleash up to 90 MHz of additional spectrum for mobile broadband, consistent with the National Broadband Plan recommendation to accelerate terrestrial deployment in the mobile satellite service band. By removing policies that are currently barriers to flexible use of terrestrial mobile wireless service, there is an opportunity to enable the deployment of mobile broadband, while retaining market-wide MSS capability, especially for public safety, rural services, and the federal government.

"This initiative is an opportunity to make additional spectrum available for mobile broadband by promoting greater spectrum efficiency and flexibility," said Julie Knapp, Co-Chair of the Task Force. "The Spectrum Task Force remains firmly committed to maintaining robust mobile satellite capability that serves important needs like disaster recovery and rural access. I am confident that we can achieve all of these goals and create a win-win solution."

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