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Blog Posts by Roger C. Sherman

Evolution in the Cellular Service

by Roger C. Sherman, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
October 2, 2014 - 11:40 AM

In the 1980s, the FCC launched the 800 MHz Cellular Service, the first “cell phone” spectrum band, sparking a worldwide mobile revolution.  Three decades later, Cellular has been, by any measure, an incredible success.  Using these frequencies, wireless operators have deployed multiple generations of wireless networks covering more than 99% of the U.S. population.  Yet, with the passage of time, it has become clear that many of the rules governing the Cellular Service have not kept pace with changes in technology and in the overall regulatory landscape.  The time has come to upgrade the Cellular Service rules for the 21st Century.

Today, Chairman Wheeler circulated a draft Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that puts forth major changes to modernize and streamline the Commission’s rules and application processes for Cellular Service licensees.   This reform would fulfill a recommendation in the Staff Report on FCC Process Reform by reducing regulatory burdens and fostering the deployment of new generations of Cellular Service across the country. 

Since the Commission first adopted rules governing the Cellular Service, mobile service and mobile devices have evolved from analog-based voice communications using suitcase-style devices, to high speed mobile broadband using pocket sized computers.  The Cellular Service licensing rules have not kept pace.

Over time, many of the Commission’s legacy Cellular rules that were instrumental in developing a successful service have outlived their usefulness and some now burden the timely deployment of the latest technologies.  

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Empowering Small Businesses

by Roger C. Sherman, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief
August 1, 2014 - 11:01 AM

Today, Chairman Wheeler circulated a proposal to open new opportunities for small and growing businesses in the mobile marketplace. Although the proposal may sound technical – updating the Commission’s approach to small business participation in wireless auctions— the purpose is simple: To provide innovative, smaller companies the opportunity to build wireless businesses that can spur additional investment and bring more choices to consumers.

Think about the wireless industry today. Consumer demand is exploding, data usage is growing exponentially, and faster 4G networks enable even more data services. That kind of growth should naturally lead to more opportunity for more businesses to serve more consumers.

But current FCC rules stand in the way. The current rules are a by-product of an earlier time— before data services became ubiquitous, before Congress instructed us to make more spectrum available to wireless networks, and, equally important, before consolidation in the wireless industry accelerated.

When the rules were first written in the 90s, we believed that bidding credits for spectrum auctions should be used only to acquire licenses by companies that would engage exclusively in building their own networks to provide retail or wholesale services – often referred to as “facilities based” service. That made sense when the wireless industry was in its infancy.

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3.5 GHz Spectrum Access System Workshop and Online Discussion

by Roger C. Sherman, Acting Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
January 13, 2014 - 03:25 PM

Part of our job at the FCC is to keep pace with new technologies and, indeed, to create an environment in which innovation can flourish. This is perhaps most true in the dynamic and ever-changing wireless sector. One focal point of our innovation strategy is the 3.5 GHz band, which presents novel opportunities to advance to the state of the art in spectrum management.  Ideally, we can do this in a way that unleashes creative forces in industry to provide more wireless bandwidth using new techniques like small cells and dynamic spectrum access.

The 3.5 GHz band is currently reserved for use by federal agencies – primarily the military, which uses the band for radar operations. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) proposed in 2010 that this band could be made available to commercial entities who would share the spectrum with incumbent federal users. In 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) proposed that sharing of the band be dynamically coordinated through a Spectrum Access System (SAS). Later that year, the Commission issued a proposal to effectuate these recommendations and adopted a Public Notice on a revised licensing framework in November 2013.

Several of the central and most novel questions in this proceeding revolve around the SAS. What functions should it perform? How will it manage multiple tiers of spectrum access? Should there be multiple third-party SAS providers, and how would they interact with one another and the FCC? How can we ensure the integrity of the system to protect existing uses of the band?

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