updated 01:05 pm EDT, Wed March 21, 2012
FCC moves on possibly mandating 700MHz unity
The FCC in an Open Commission Meeting Wednesday morning unanimously voted to pursue possibilities for significantly improving 4G's use in the US. It would verify whether there would be any adverse effect to making the 700MHz A, B, and C blocks of spectrum interoperable, letting one roam on the other. Agency officials would want outside input on what the rules would be if there were little to no interference, as well as whether any interference might be cut back.
Smaller carriers such as C Spire and MetroPCS have argued that interoperability is needed to maintain competition. Without it, their planned LTE networks in the A block won't have as much practical coverage. AT&T and Verizon, which run in the B and C blocks, have a vested interest in arguing against interoperability; blocking access reduces competition both by limiting smaller rivals' actual reach as well as by preventing customers from easily bringing an unlocked device from one network to the other.
Some of the problem has come to the forefront just in the past week. Although new iPads with LTE use 700MHz bands on both AT&T and Verizon, a customer on one network can't use 4G just by putting in a new SIM card.
The same meeting saw the FCC check to see how the 2GHz Mobile Satellite Service spectrum could be reused for land-based use. While it would check to make sure that licenses and interference would be kept in check, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski hoped clearance to use it would be wrapped up "expeditiously."
The NTIA was also looking to give up some of its own frequency licenses, in the 1,695MHz to 1,710MHz space, for private companies' use.
Allowing 2GHz access would be vital for Dish Network, which has been made to wait on kickstarting its own 4G network. It bought DBSD and TerreStar primarily to start offering LTE in the struggling smaller companies' satellite frequencies. While Dish could launch without them, it would most likely end up satellites for a large part of its infrastructure and would be at a disadvantage through problems with lag.