Skip Navigation

Federal Communications Commission

English Display Options

Commission Document

Promoting Interoperability in the 700 MHz Commercial Spectrum

Download Options

Released: March 21, 2012

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of
)
)

Promoting Interoperability in the 700 MHz
)
WT Docket No. 12-69
Commercial Spectrum
)
)

Interoperability of Mobile User Equipment Across )
RM-11592 (Terminated)
Paired Commercial Spectrum Blocks in the 700
)
MHz Band
)

NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING

Adopted: March 21, 2012

Released: March 21, 2012

Comment Date: [60 days after date of publication in the Federal Register]
Reply Comment Date: [105 days after date of publication in the Federal Register]

By the Commission: Chairman Genachowski and Commissioners McDowell and Clyburn issuing
separate statements.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Heading
Paragraph #
I.
INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................................. 1
II. BACKGROUND .................................................................................................................................... 6
III. DISCUSSION....................................................................................................................................... 17
A. Challenges to Achieving Interoperability ...................................................................................... 17
B. Potential for Harmful Interference................................................................................................. 30
C. Promoting Interoperability............................................................................................................. 47
IV. CONCLUSION .................................................................................................................................... 60
V. PROCEDURAL MATTERS................................................................................................................ 61
A. Ex Parte Rules................................................................................................................................ 61
B. Filing Requirements....................................................................................................................... 62
C. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Act Analysis .................................................................................... 66
D. Paperwork Reduction Act .............................................................................................................. 67
VI. ORDERING CLAUSES....................................................................................................................... 68
APPENDIX - Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

I.

INTRODUCTION

1.
The Communications Act directs the Commission to, among other things, promote the
widest possible deployment of communications services, ensure the most efficient use of spectrum, and
protect and promote vibrant competition in the marketplace. On each occasion where the Commission
has made available new spectrum for mobile telephony and/or broadband, it has strived to meet these
important goals. This was the case when the Commission launched its proceeding to free up the 700
MHz band for commercial mobile services, as it expressly recognized the need to “balance several
competing goals, including facilitating access to spectrum by both small and large providers, providing

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

for the efficient use of the spectrum, and better enabling the delivery of broadband services in the 700
MHz Band.”1
2.
Since the completion of the 700 MHz auction and the subsequent clearing of the
spectrum, however, certain Lower 700 MHz A Block licensees have asserted that the development of two
distinct band classes within the Lower 700 MHz band has hampered their ability to have meaningful
access to a wide range of advanced devices. 2 The result, they argue, is that this spectrum is being built
out less quickly than anticipated (and in some cases not at all), so that a large number of Lower 700 MHz
A Block licensees are unable to provide the level of service and degree of competition envisioned at the
close of the auction and as contemplated by the Communications Act. The 700 MHz band, at 70
megahertz, one of the largest commercial mobile service bands, is the only non-interoperable commercial
mobile service band.
3.
The record to date in response to the underlying Petition for Rulemaking reveals
disagreement over the rationale for the distinct band classes, and the wisdom of maintaining both.3 At its
core, the dispute is whether a unified band class would result in harmful interference to Lower 700 MHz
licensees in the B and C Blocks and whether, if harmful interference exists, it reasonably can be
mitigated.
4.
There is express agreement, however, that a unified band class across the Lower 700
MHz band has the potential to yield significant benefits for all licensees. Indeed, as AT&T, the primary
holder of Lower B and C Block licenses, affirmed in a recent letter to the Commission, “[AT&T] indeed
anticipate[s] that there would be increased opportunity [if interference concerns were addressed] for
commercial relationships with A Block licensees.”4 Unfortunately, no industry-led solution to the lack of
interoperability has yet emerged.
5.
Therefore, we initiate this rulemaking proceeding to promote interoperability in the


1 Service Rules for the 698-746, 747-762 and 777-792 MHz Band, WT Docket No. 06-150, Revision of the
Commission’s Rules to Ensure Compatibility with Enhanced 911 Emergency Calling Systems, CC Docket No. 94-
102, Section 68.4(a) of the Commission’s Rules Governing Hearing Aid-Compatible Telephone, WT Docket No.
01-309, Biennial Regulatory Review – Amendment of Parts 1, 22, 24, 27, and 90 to Streamline and Harmonize
Various Rules Affecting Wireless Radio Services, WT Docket No. 03-264, Former Nextel Communications, Inc.
Upper 700 MHz Guard Band Licenses and Revisions to Part 27 of the Commission’s Rules, WT Docket No. 06-169,
Implementing a Nationwide, Broadband Interoperable Public Safety Network in the 700 MHz Band, PS Docket No.
06-229, Development of Operational, Technical and Spectrum Requirements for Meeting Federal, State, and Local
Public Safety Communications Requirements Through the Year 2010, WT Docket No. 96-86, Declaratory Ruling on
Reporting Requirement Under Commission’s Part 1 Anti-Collusion Rule, WT Docket No. 07-166, Second Report
and Order
, 22 FCC Rcd 15289, 15305 ¶ 44 (2007) (700 MHz Second Report and Order).
2 See 700 MHz Block A Good Faith Purchaser Alliance Petition for Rulemaking Regarding the Need for 700 MHz
Mobile Equipment to be Capable of Operating on All Paired Commercial 700 MHz Frequency Blocks, filed Sept.
29, 2009 (Petition).
3 The Petition was placed on Public Notice for comment in RM-11592. See infra note 26. The record in WT
Docket No. 11-18 also discussed the distinct band classes and interoperability concerns in the Lower 700 MHz band.
See Application of AT&T Inc. and Qualcomm Incorporated For Consent To Assign Licenses and Authorizations,
WT Docket No. 11-18.
4 Letter from Joan Marsh, Vice President – Federal Regulatory, AT&T, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, WT Docket No.
11-18, filed Dec. 21, 2011 (AT&T Dec. 21, 2011 Ex Parte in WT Dkt. No. 11-18), at 2.
2

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

Lower 700 MHz band and to encourage the efficient use of spectrum.5 We will evaluate whether the
customers of Lower 700 MHz B and C Block licensees would experience harmful interference – and if so,
to what degree – if the Lower 700 MHz band were interoperable. We also explore the next steps should
we find that interoperability would cause limited or no harmful interference to Lower 700 MHz B and C
Block licensees, or that such interference can reasonably be mitigated through industry efforts and/or
through modifications to the Commission’s technical rules or other regulatory measures.

II.

BACKGROUND

6.
700 MHz Band. The 700 MHz band (698-806 MHz), illustrated in the following figure,
is comprised of 70 megahertz of commercial, non-guard band spectrum, 4 megahertz of guard band
spectrum, 24 megahertz of public safety spectrum, and 10 megahertz of spectrum that will be reallocated
for public safety use pursuant to recent Congressional mandate.6
“BCxx” indicates Band Classes proposed as part of the international 3GPP industry LTE technical standards processes.
*The D Block will be reallocated for use by public safety entities as directed by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012
7.
As shown above, the Lower 700 MHz band spectrum (698-746 MHz) consists of 48
megahertz of commercial spectrum, with three blocks of 12 megahertz each of paired spectrum (Lower A,
B, and C Blocks), and two blocks of 6 megahertz each of unpaired spectrum (Lower D and E Blocks).
The Lower A Block spectrum is adjacent to Channel 51 (692-698 MHz), which has been allocated for TV
broadcast operations at power levels of up to 1000 kW.7 The Lower A Block is also adjacent to the


5 The Commission has a longstanding interest in promoting the interoperability of mobile user equipment in a
variety of contexts as a means to promote the widest possible deployment of mobile services, ensure the most
efficient use of spectrum, and protect and promote competition. See infra ¶¶ 17-29.
6 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-96, 126 Stat. 158, 205 (directing the
Commission to “reallocate the 700 MHz D Block spectrum for use by public safety entities”) (to be codified at 47
U.S.C. § 1411) (“Spectrum Act”).
7 See 47 C.F.R. § 73.622(f)(8). Maximum ERP of 1000 kW is allowed if antenna HAAT is at or below 365 meters.
For higher HAAT levels, lower maximum ERP is allowed according to the “Maximum Allowable ERP and Antenna
Height for DTV Stations on Channels 14-59, All Zones” table.
3

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

unpaired Lower 700 MHz E Block, where licensees (along with Lower 700 MHz D Block licensees) may
operate at power levels up to 50 kW.8 The Upper 700 MHz band (746-806 MHz) consists of the C Block,
which is comprised of 22 megahertz of paired spectrum for commercial use, two guard bands, the public
safety allocation, and the D Block, which consists of 10 megahertz of paired spectrum that will be
reallocated for use by public safety entities, in accordance with the Spectrum Act.9
8.
Assignment of Licenses in the 700 MHz Band. The Commission has assigned licenses for
the 700 MHz band through several auction proceedings. The Commission auctioned licenses for the
guard bands in the Upper 700 MHz band in 2000, and it initially auctioned licenses in the Lower C and D
Blocks in 2002.10 In 2008, the Commission auctioned licenses in the Lower 700 MHz band A, B, and E
Blocks, as well as the Upper 700 MHz band C Block.11
9.
Performance Requirements. In adopting rules for the 700 MHz band, the Commission’s
goals included promoting commercial access to 700 MHz band spectrum,12 as well as providing licensees
with flexibility in the services to be offered and the technologies to be deployed.13 For the Lower 700


8 See 47 C.F.R. § 27.50(c)(7). Lower 700 MHz C, D, and E Block fixed and base stations may operate at total
power levels up to 50 kW ERP in their authorized 6 megahertz spectrum blocks. In the recent ATT-Qualcomm
transaction, in which AT&T acquired all of the Lower 700 MHz D Block licenses and Lower 700 MHz E Block
licenses covering 70 million people, the Commission conditioned the assignment of these licenses on AT&T’s
compliance with the requirements that: (1) it operates on the associated spectrum under the same power limits and
antenna height restrictions that apply to the Lower 700 MHz A, B, and C Block licensees; (2) it does not use the
acquired licenses for uplink transmission; and (3) its operations on the associated spectrum avoid undue interference
to operations of other Lower 700 MHz A, B, and C Block licensees, as specified therein. Application of AT&T Inc.
and Qualcomm Incorporated For Consent To Assign Licenses and Authorizations, Order, WT Docket No. 11-18, 26
FCC Rcd 17589, 17616-18 ¶¶ 61-68 (2011) (AT&T/Qualcomm Order).
9 See supra note 6.
10 See Lower 700 MHz Band Auction Closes, Public Notice, 17 FCC Rcd 17272 (2002); 700 MHz Guard Bands
Auction Closes, Public Notice, 15 FCC Rcd 18026 (2000).
11 See Auction of 700 MHz Band Licenses Closes, Public Notice, 23 FCC Rcd 4572 (2008). The Commission also
conducted an auction for a single, nationwide license covering the entire Upper 700 MHz D Block, but bidding for
that license did not meet the applicable reserve price of $1.33 billion. Pursuant to the Commission’s rules, there was
consequently no winning bid for that license. See Service Rules for the 698-746, 747-762 and 777-792 MHz Bands,
WT Docket No. 06-150, Implementing a Nationwide, Broadband, Interoperable Public Safety Network in the 700
MHz Band, PS Docket No. 06-229, Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 23 FCC Rcd 8047, 8049 ¶ 1
(2008). Recent legislation has directed the Commission to reallocate the Upper 700 MHz D Block spectrum for
public safety use. See supra note 6.
12 See 700 MHz Second Report and Order, 22 FCC Rcd at 15292 ¶ 3; Reallocation and Service Rules for the 698-
746 MHz Spectrum Band (Television Channels 52-59), GN Docket No. 01-74, Report and Order, 17 FCC Rcd
1022, 1079 ¶¶ 149-51 (2002) (Lower 700 MHz Report and Order).
13 See 700 MHz Second Report and Order, 22 FCC Rcd at 15328 ¶ 95; Facilitating the Provision of Spectrum-Based
Services to Rural Areas and Promoting Opportunities for Rural Telephone Companies to Provide Spectrum-Based
Services, WT Docket No. 02-381, 2000 Biennial Regulatory Review Spectrum Aggregation Limits for Commercial
Mobile Radio Services, WT Docket No. 01-14, Increasing Flexibility to Promote Access to and the Efficient and
Intensive Use of Spectrum and the Widespread Deployment of Wireless Services, and to Facilitate Capital
Formation, WT Docket No. 03-202, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 19 FCC Rcd
19078, 19079 ¶ 1 (2004) (Rural Report and Order); Principles for Reallocation of Spectrum to Encourage the
Development of Telecommunications Technologies for the New Millennium, Policy Statement, 14 FCC Rcd 19868
(1999); Principles for Promoting the Efficient Use of Spectrum by Encouraging the Development of Secondary
Markets, Policy Statement, 15 FCC Rcd 24178 (2000); 47 U.S.C. § 303(y).
4

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

MHz C and D Block licenses that were auctioned in 2002, the Commission required licensees to provide
“substantial service” to their license service areas no later than the end of the license term.14 In 2007, the
Commission adopted performance requirements for licenses in the 700 MHz band that subsequently were
auctioned in 2008, including Lower 700 MHz A Block.15 Specifically, Cellular Market Area (CMA)-
based and Economic Area (EA)-based licensees are required to provide service sufficient to cover 35
percent of the geographic area of their licenses within four years and 70 percent of this area within ten
years (the license term), and Regional Economic Area Grouping (REAG) licensees must provide service
sufficient to cover 40 percent of the population of their license areas within four years and 75 percent of
the population within ten years. For licensees that fail to meet the applicable interim benchmark, the
license term is reduced by two years, which would require that the end-of-term benchmark be met within
eight years, and the Commission may take other enforcement action.16 At the end of the license term,
licensees that fail to meet the end-of-term benchmark are subject to a “keep what you use” rule, which
will make unused spectrum available to other potential users.17
10.
Development of 3GPP Technical Standards. Industry standards for Long-Term
Evolution (LTE) wireless broadband technology are developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project
(3GPP), a consensus-driven international partnership of industry-based telecommunications standards
bodies. 3GPP, established in 1998, is an industry-based group and it is not associated with any
governmental agency.18 In the Lower 700 MHz band, there are two different 3GPP operating bands:19
Band Class 12, which covers operations in the Lower A, B, and C Blocks, and Band Class 17, which
covers operations in the Lower B and C Blocks only. The spectrum to which Band Class 17 applies is a
subset of the spectrum covered by Band Class 12. Entities involved in the creation of Band Class 17
during 3GPP proceedings assert that it was necessary to create a separate band class for Lower 700 MHz
B and C Block licenses in order to avoid interference issues from DTV in Channel 51 and high power
operations in the E Block.20 In the Upper 700 MHz band, the Band Class 13 specification provides for


14 See 47 C.F.R. § 27.14(a); Lower 700 MHz Report and Order, 17 FCC Rcd at 1079 ¶¶ 149-51. Lower 700 MHz
licenses have a term of ten years from June 13, 2009, except for any licensees providing broadcast services, which
have a term not to exceed eight years. See 47 C.F.R. § 27.13(b).
15 See 700 MHz Second Report and Order, 22 FCC Rcd at 15348 ¶ 153.
16 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 27.14(g)(1), (h)(1). In December, 2011, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau announced
that the deadline for 700 MHz performance reports was January 13, 2012, and reminded licensees of enforcement
actions for failure to meet interim construction benchmarks. See 700 MHz Construction and Reporting
Requirements, Public Notice, DA 11-1981, 26 FCC Rcd 16442 (WTB 2011).
17 See 700 MHz Second Report and Order, 22 FCC Rcd at 15293-94 ¶ 6.
18 Its world-wide partners come from Asia, Europe, and North America. 3GPP’s many technical specification
groups meet in various countries throughout the year to carry out the organization’s mission. See 3GPP – ABOUT
3GPP, http://www.3gpp.org/-About-3GPP (last visited Mar. 12, 2012). For the schedules of the meetings, see 3GPP
– 3GPP CALENDAR, http://www.3gpp.org/3GPP-Calendar (last visited Mar. 12, 2012).
19 Hereinafter, we refer to each 3GPP LTE Operating Band as a “Band Class.” For example, we refer to 3GPP LTE
Operating Band 12 as “Band Class 12.”
20 See, e.g., Letter from Michael Goggin, General Attorney, AT&T, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed July 29, 2011
(AT&T July 29, 2011 Ex Parte) at 1 (claiming that during the 3GPP standard setting process, there was concern
regarding potential interference to Lower A Block mobile reception because of high power transmissions on the
Lower E Block, and therefore, as a result, it adopted a Band Class 17, which covered only the Lower 700 MHz B
and C Blocks, and a Band Class 12, which covers the Lower 700 MHz A, B, and C Blocks); Motorola Comments at
4-6 (discussing the development of the 3GPP band classes for the 700 MHz Band and claiming that “[t]he decision
(continued….)
5

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

operations in the Upper C Block, and Band Class 14 provides for operations in the public safety spectrum
(including the Upper 700 MHz D Block). 3GPP has adopted certain technical specifications for user
equipment operating in different 700 MHz bands. Output power and the OOBE specifications for LTE
equipment are the same for all commercial paired frequencies in the Lower 700 MHz band.21 The 3GPP
specifications differ for receiver blocking requirements. The 3GPP specified requirements for receiver
blocking are the same for Band Class 13 and Band Class 14 equipment, but Band Class 12 and Band
Class 17 each have different and distinct blocking requirements, due to differences in each band’s relative
proximity to neighboring high-powered operations in the E block.22
11.
700 MHz Interoperability Petition for Rulemaking. In late 2009, an alliance comprised of
four Lower 700 MHz A Block licensees (Petitioners) filed a petition for rulemaking, asking the
Commission to “assure that consumers will have access to all paired 700 MHz spectrum that the
Commission licenses, to act so that the entire 700 MHz Band will develop in a competitive fashion, and
to adopt rules that prohibit restrictive equipment arrangements that are contrary to the public interest.”23
Petitioners request the Commission to require that all mobile units for the 700 MHz band be capable of
operating over all frequencies in the band.24 Petitioners further request “an immediate freeze on the
authorization of mobile equipment that is not capable of operation on all paired commercial 700 MHz
frequencies.”25 The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau sought comment on the Petition in 2010.26
12.
The Commission received 18 comments and 13 reply comments in response to the
Petition. Commenters are divided on the merits of the relief sought in the Petition. Commenters in
support of the Petition include smaller, regional 700 MHz licensees, a coalition including Sprint Nextel
(Continued from previous page)


to identify [B]and [C]lass 17 separately from [B]and [C]lass 12 was based entirely on desire to avoid harmful
interference that would negatively affect the operation of 700 MHz mobile broadband devices”); Letter from Alan
K. Tse, Vice President and General Counsel, LG Electronics MobileComm U.S.A., to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC,
filed June 11, 2010 at 4 (“[i]n the case of Bands 12 and 17, distinctions were made due to regulatory and
interference limitations on the Lower 700 MHz A Block”).
21 See Sections 6.2.2, 6.6.2, and 6.6.2.2.3 of 3GPP TS 36.101 V9.9.0 (2011-09). The class 3 devices (UE) maximum
transmit power is 23dBm for all bands with ±2dB tolerance, and Table 6.6.2.2.3-1 specifies the spectrum emission
limits for available channel bandwidths.
22 Receiver blocking requirements address a receiver’s ability to receive at least 95% of the maximum throughput at
its assigned channel in the presence of an unwanted interfering signal falling into the device receive band or into the
first adjacent 15 megahertz. See Table 7.6.1.1-2, Section 7.6.1 of 3GPP TS 36.104 V9.9.0 (2011-09). Unlike Band
Class 17, 3GPP determined that Band Class 12 cannot achieve the typical minimum specification for blocking
interference from the Lower 700 MHz E Block, so this requirement was omitted from the Band 12 technical
specification.
23 Petition at 1. The Alliance is a “joint venture” consisting of Cellular South Licenses, Inc.; Cavalier Wireless,
LLC; Continuum 700, LLC; and King Street Wireless, L.P., each of which is currently the licensee of Lower 700
MHz Band A Block spectrum. Id.
24 Petition at iii, 12.
25 Petition at 1-2.
26 Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Seeks Comment on Petition for Rulemaking Regarding 700 MHz Band
Mobile Equipment Design and Procurement Practices, RM No. 11592, Public Notice, 25 FCC Rcd 1464 (2010)
(700 MHz Interoperability PN). All future filings concerning RM-11592 should be made in this docket, WT Docket
No. 12-69.
6

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

and T-Mobile,27 trade associations representing rural and smaller providers,28 a coalition of public interest
groups,29 and public safety associations.30 These supporters assert that the mobile devices currently being
developed for AT&T and Verizon Wireless preclude supporting operation on Lower A Block spectrum
and that this is contrary to the public interest and anti-competitive.31 They argue that small providers that
acquired Lower band 700 MHz Block A spectrum are left without viable and widely usable equipment
options. Thus, they contend that unless Verizon Wireless and AT&T are required to support Band Class
12 in their devices, Lower A Block licensees will not be able to obtain devices with competitive
economies of scale.32 They also argue that requiring full 700 MHz support will maximize roaming
opportunities.33 Specifically, Petitioners assert that a prerequisite for negotiating roaming agreements is
the availability of capable devices and that there is no basis for negotiation if there are no mobile devices
that work across 700 MHz frequency blocks.34 While the Petition requests interoperability across the
entire 700 MHz band, subsequent filings from some of the proponents of an interoperability requirement,
including parties to the Petition, have asked the Commission to first focus on establishing an
interoperability requirement for the Lower 700 MHz band.35


27 The coalition is Connect Public Safety Now (CPSN), formerly Coalition for 4G in America. Its members include
Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, MetroPCS, Cricket, Cellular South, Rural Cellular Association, Xanadoo, New America
Foundation, Media Access Project, and Access Spectrum.
28 The trade associations include Rural Cellular Association, National Telecommunications Cooperative
Association, and Rural Telecommunications Group.
29 The coalition is the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC). Its members are the Consumer Federation of
America, Consumers Union, Media Access Project, New America Foundation, and Public Knowledge. See PISC
Reply Comments at 1.
30 The public safety associations are the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and The Public Safety Spectrum
Trust (PSST). These associations support interoperability in the 700 MHz band generally but urge the Commission
to carefully evaluate the technical feasibility and economic viability of requiring devices that “cover all 700 MHz
paired spectrum” before ruling on the Petition. PSST Comments at 9-10 (emphasis in original); see also FOP
Comments at 10.
31 Petitioners Reply Comments at 2, 27-28; NTCA Comments at 3; PVT Comments at 4; PVT Reply Comments at
2-5; MetroPCS Comments at 4-6, 10; Triad 700 Comments at 10; U.S. Cellular Reply Comments at i-ii, 7; Cellular
South Comments at 9; RCA Reply Comments at 8; PISC Reply Comments at 2; RTG Reply Comments at 7-8.
32 Petitioners Reply Comments at 13, 28-29; PISC Reply Comments at 2-3; Letter from Mark A. Stachiw, Executive
Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary, MetroPCS Communications, Inc., Lawrence R. Krevor, Vice
President, Spectrum, Sprint Nextel Corp. et al., to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed May 10, 2010, Attachment, 700
MHz Band Analysis by Wireless Strategy LLC, at 6 (MetroPCS et al. May 10, 2010 Ex Parte) (additional parties to
the filing are T-Mobile USA, Access Spectrum, Xanadoo Co., Rural Telecom. Group, Triad 700, U.S. Cellular,
RCA, and Cellular South); Vulcan Reply Comments at 2-3; PVT Comments at 3-4; PVT Reply Comments at 2, 11;
Blooston Comments at 3; U.S. Cellular Comments at 5; Cellular South Comments at 3-5; RCA Comments at 19;
Cox Comments at 3; MetroPCS Comments at 6; RTG Comments at 3, 10.
33 See, e.g., Petitioners Reply Comments at 19-23; RCA Reply Comments at 7-9; PVT Reply Comments at 4-5;
RTG Reply Comments at 8-9; Cellular South Comments at 4-5; NTCA Comments at 3-4; Blooston Comments at 2-
5; MetroPCS Comments at 11, 13; Triad 700 Comments at 5; U.S. Cellular Comments at 8.
34 Petitioners Reply Comments at 22-23.
35 For example, Cellular South requests that there be a single specification – Band Class 12 – for the Lower 700
MHz Band and a single specification for the Upper 700 MHz Band. Letter from David L. Nace and Thomas
Gutierrez, Lukas, Nace, Gutierrez, and Sachs, LLP, Counsels for Cellular South and King Street (respectively), to
(continued….)
7

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

13.
In their initial comments, parties such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless,36 device
manufacturers Motorola and Qualcomm, and TIA, a manufacturer trade association, opposed the Petition.
They argued that without Band Class 17 filtering, Lower 700 MHz B and C licensees will face greater
levels of harmful interference.37 Further, they suggested that an interoperability requirement at that time,
spring 2010, would have unnecessarily delayed the deployment of 700 MHz mobile broadband devices.38
They contended that the existing 3GPP band classes were crafted through an open process and are
responsive to the realities of the engineering and manufacturing constraints of the Commission-defined
spectrum blocks.39 Further, AT&T asserted that nothing prevents 700 MHz A Block licensees from
negotiating roaming deals with any provider offering services on other 700 MHz blocks.40 AT&T also
argued that even if A Block licensees will have greater difficulty or face higher costs in developing
handsets for use on the A Block, those disadvantages are fully reflected in the lower prices A Block
licensees paid to obtain A Block spectrum.41
(Continued from previous page)


Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed May 27, 2011 (Cellular South/King Street May 27, 2011 Ex Parte) Attachment at 12.
While RCA requests that the Commission require interoperability across the entire 700 MHz Band, RCA requests
that it do so “most immediately in the lower portion of the band.” Letter from Rebecca M. Thomson, General
Counsel, RCA, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed Nov. 22, 2011 at 1. See also Letter from Rebecca Murphy
Thompson, General Counsel, Rural Cellular Association, to Marlene Dortch, FCC, filed March 15, 2012 at 2-3
(arguing that “lower band interoperability is achievable in the short term and should not be slowed by the complex
issue of full band interoperability”); Letter from Thomas Gutierrez, Lukas, Nace, Gutierrez and Sachs, LLP,
Counsel for Cavalier Wireless, LLC, to Marlene H. Dortch, filed Dec. 8, 2011, at 2 (Cavalier Wireless Dec. 8, 2011
Ex Parte) (advocating a “one-band” solution that involves only the Lower 700 MHz Band); see also Letter from M.
Chris Riley and Matthew F. Wood, Free Press, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed Dec. 20, 2011, at 1-2 (Free Press
Dec. 20, 2011 Ex Parte
) (urging the Commission to condition AT&T’s acquisition of Qualcomm’s licenses on
certain conditions, including “a mandate on interoperability across the lower 700 MHz spectrum bands”). In a
recent filing, Verizon Wireless also requests that the Commission limit this proceeding to the Lower 700 MHz
spectrum band. Letter from Tamara Preiss, Vice President, Federal Regulatory Affairs, Verizon Wireless, to
Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed January 25, 2012 at 2.
36 AT&T holds licenses in the Lower B and Lower C Blocks, as well as all of the Lower 700 MHz D Block and a
significant number of Lower E Block licenses, recently acquired from Qualcomm. See supra note 8. Verizon
Wireless holds licenses in the Lower 700 MHz A and B Blocks, and all of the spectrum in the Upper C Block.
Neither of the other two nationwide wireless providers, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile, holds any 700 MHz licenses.
37 See, e.g., AT&T Comments at 5-7; AT&T Reply Comments at 10, 11; Letter from Joseph P. Marx, Assistant Vice
President, Federal Regulatory, AT&T, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed June 3, 2010 (AT&T June 3, 2010 Ex
Parte
) at 1-10; Verizon Wireless Reply Comments at 2; Motorola Comments at 8-9; Qualcomm Comments at 6;
TIA Reply Comments at 2. See also Letter from Joan Marsh, Vice President – Federal Regulatory, AT&T, to
Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, WT Docket No. 11-18, filed Dec. 9, 2011 (AT&T Dec. 9, 2011 Ex Parte in WT Dkt. No.
11-18) at 2-4 (opposing an interoperability condition in connection with the proposed assignment of 700 MHz
spectrum from Qualcomm to AT&T).
38 See, e.g., CEA Comments at 2; Qualcomm Comments at 1-3; Motorola Comments at 8; TIA Reply Comments at
3; Verizon Wireless Reply Comments at 2; AT&T June 4, 2010 Ex Parte at 2.
39 See, e.g., AT&T Comments at 2-7; AT&T Reply Comments at 14-15; Verizon Wireless Comments at 2-4;
Verizon Wireless Reply Comments at 9; Motorola Comments at 4. A number of parties also assert that granting the
Petition would contradict the Commission’s policy of technology neutrality. See, e.g., Motorola Comments at 8-9;
Qualcomm Comments at 6-8; AT&T Reply Comments at 6-9.
40 AT&T Reply Comments at 17.
41 AT&T June 3, 2010 Ex Parte at 11.
8

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

14.
Workshop on Interoperability. Last year, to update the record and gather additional
information, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau held a workshop on the status and availability of
interoperable mobile user equipment across commercial spectrum blocks in the 700 MHz band.42
Panelists included a range of industry experts, including licensees holding spectrum in different portions
of the 700 MHz band, as well as public interest advocates and equipment manufacturers. In addition to
exploring solutions for promoting the development and availability of equipment for the 700 MHz band,
the workshop discussed providers’ technology choices, such as the planned deployment of LTE, and how
these technology choices affect equipment availability, competition, and roaming. Panelists discussed the
technical feasibility of an interoperability condition,43 as well as how an interoperability requirement
might affect such factors as device cost and performance,44 and the need for additional development and
testing.45
15.
Other Developments Regarding the 700 MHz Band. On March 15, 2011, CTIA and RCA
filed a petition for rulemaking and request for licensing freezes on Channel 51, urging the Commission to
facilitate the deployment of wireless broadband services in the Lower 700 MHz A Block by providing a
stable interference environment that allows licensees to plan network deployments.46 The petition noted
the potential for interference between Channel 51 broadcast and Lower 700 MHz A Block licensees.47
On March 28, 2011, the Media Bureau requested comment on the petition,48 and in August 2011, the
Media Bureau adopted a freeze on the filing of certain applications with respect to operations on Channel
51.49 The freeze covers (1) applications for low power television, TV translator, replacement translators,
and Class A television facilities on Channel 51, and displacement applications on this channel; and (2)


42 A video of the workshop is available for streaming on the Internet at http://www.fcc.gov/events/700-mhz-
interoperability-workshop.
43 See, e.g., Workshop comments of Edgar Fernandes, Motorola; Workshop comments of Eugene Fong, Qualcomm;
Workshop comments of Paul Kolodzy, Consultant to Vulcan Wireless; Workshop comments of Eric B. Graham,
Cellular South. A video of the workshop is available for streaming on the Internet at
http://www.fcc.gov/events/700-mhz-interoperability-workshop.
44 See, e.g., Workshop comments of William Stone, Verizon Wireless; Workshop comments of Stacey Black,
AT&T. A video of the workshop is available for streaming on the Internet at http://www.fcc.gov/events/700-mhz-
interoperability-workshop.
45 See, e.g., Workshop comments of Michael Chard, Qualcomm. A video of the workshop is available for streaming
on the Internet at http://www.fcc.gov/events/700-mhz-interoperability-workshop.
46 See Petition for Rulemaking and Request for Licensing Freezes by CTIA - the Wireless Association and Rural
Cellular Association, RM-11626, filed March 15, 2011 (Channel 51 Petition).
47 Id. at 4-5 (referencing potential for interference from Channel 51 broadcast stations into A Block base station
receivers); id. at 5 (referencing potential for interference from A Block licensees into Channel 51 TV receivers).
48 Media Bureau Seeks Comment on a Petition for Rulemaking and Request for Licensing Freezes, Public Notice,
RM 11626, 26 FCC Rcd 4916 (MB 2011).
49 General Freeze on the Filing and Processing of Applications for Channel 51 Effective Immediately and Sixty (60)
Day Amendment Window for Pending Channel 51 Low Power Television TV Translator and Class A Applications,
Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd 11409 (MB 2011) (Channel 51 PN). The Media Bureau also announced that it would
lift the previous freeze on the filing of petitions for rulemaking by full power television stations seeking to relocate
from Channel 51 pursuant to voluntary relocation agreements with Lower 700 MHz A Block licensees. Id. at
11411; see also Freeze on the Filing of Petitions for Digital Channel Substitutions, Effective Immediately, Public
Notice
, 26 FCC Rcd 7721 (MB 2011).
9

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

applications for minor change for low power and full power television stations on Channel 51.50
16.
AT&T/Qualcomm Transaction. On January 13, 2011, AT&T and Qualcomm filed an
application for Commission consent to the assignment or transfer of control of all eleven of Qualcomm’s
D and E Block licenses in the Lower 700 MHz band to AT&T.51 The Commission sought comment on
the proposed transaction.52 Several parties asked the Commission to impose requirements relating to
device interoperability as a condition of approving the transaction.53 After examination of the record, the
Commission approved the assignment on December 22, 2011, but declined to adopt an interoperability
condition.54 The Commission observed that even assuming that the lack of Lower 700 MHz
interoperability causes significant competitive harm, such harm already existed independent of the license
transfer applications.55 The Commission concluded that the better course would be to consider the
numerous technical issues raised by the lack of interoperability through a rulemaking proceeding, which
we undertake in this NPRM.56

III.

DISCUSSION

A.

Challenges to Achieving Interoperability

17.
The Commission historically has been interested in promoting interoperability.
Beginning with the licensing of cellular spectrum, the Commission has opined that consumer equipment
should be capable of operating over the entire range of cellular spectrum as a means to “insure full
coverage in all markets and compatibility on a nationwide basis.”57 Although the Commission did not
adopt a rule to require band-wide interoperability for PCS, it again stressed the importance of


50 Channel 51 PN, 26 FCC Rcd at 11409. The filing of petitions for rulemaking for new digital full power television
stations, including those for channel 51, is frozen as well. See Freeze on the Filing of Certain TV and DTV
Requests for Allotment or Service Area Changes, Public Notice, 19 FCC Rcd 14810 (MB 2004). Therefore,
petitions for rulemaking for new channel 51 allotments cannot be filed. In addition, the Media Bureau is not
currently accepting any applications for major changes to existing analog and digital LPTV and TV translator
facilities. See Freeze on the Filing of Applications for New Digital Low Power Television and TV Translator
Stations, Public Notice, 25 FCC Rcd 15120 (MB 2010).
51 The applicants amended their application on February 9, 2011. See FCC File No. 0004566825.
52 AT&T Mobility Spectrum LLC and Qualcomm Incorporated Seek FCC Consent to the Assignment of Lower 700
MHz Band Licenses, WT Docket No. 11-18, Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd 1336 (2011).
53 See, e.g., Cellular South Petition to Deny, WT Docket No. 11-18, at 5-6, 19; RTG Petition to Deny, WT Docket
No. 11-18, at 19; RTG Reply Comments, WT Docket No. 11-18, at 7; RCA Petition to Deny, WT Docket No. 11-
18, at 12; King Street Petition to Deny, WT Docket No. 11-18, at 5; Free Press Petition to Condition Grant, WT
Docket No. 11-18, at 5; Letter from Michele C. Farquhar, Counsel to Vulcan Wireless LLC., to Marlene H. Dortch,
FCC, WT Docket No. 11-18, filed May 27, 2011 (Vulcan May 27, 2011 Ex Parte in WT Dkt. No. 11-18),
Attachment at 6.
54 See AT&T/Qualcomm Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 17591 ¶ 5.
55AT&T/Qualcomm Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 17620 ¶ 71.
56 AT&T/Qualcomm Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 17620 ¶ 71 (noting that the Commission planned to begin such a
rulemaking proceeding in the first quarter of 2012).
57 Inquiry Into the Use of the Bands 825-845 MHz and 870-890 MHz for Cellular Communications Systems; and
Amendment of Parts 2 and 22 of the Commission’s Rules Relative to Cellular Communications Systems, CC
Docket No. 79–318, Report & Order, 86 FCC 2d 469, 482 (1981) (Cellular Report and Order). The Commission
adopted band-wide interoperability requirements for cellular service. Id.
10

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

interoperability by acknowledging industry efforts to establish voluntary interoperability standards and
asserted that “[t]he availability of interoperability standards will deliver important benefits to consumers
and help achieve our objectives of universality, competitive delivery of PCS, that includes the ability of
consumers to switch between PCS systems at low cost, and competitive markets for PCS equipment.”58
The Commission also stated that if PCS technology did not develop in a manner to accommodate roaming
and interoperability, it might consider “what actions the Commission may take to facilitate the more rapid
development of appropriate standards.”59
18.
Availability of End-User Equipment. According to the Petitioners, a lack of
interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band has cut off meaningful access for many Lower A Block
licensees to cutting-edge devices, and even those that do have access are able to acquire only a fraction of
what other 700 MHz licensees are able to procure. Petitioners and proponents of a near-term
interoperability requirement make essentially two arguments. Specifically, Vulcan argues that equipment
vendors currently first serve the needs of “the unique band class that is dominated by AT&T” and that this
slows the time to market for Lower A Block licensees because they experience a lack of access to new
devices and face delays in the development of standards, chipsets, and equipment.60 Similarly, RTG
asserts that equipment manufacturers have little incentive to innovate and provide compatible devices for
smaller markets, particularly when providing interoperable devices would run contrary to their largest
customers’ desires.61
19.
Petitioners and other proponents also claim that an interoperability requirement should
enable Lower A Block licensees and other Lower 700 MHz licensees to benefit from economies of scale
with respect to mobile devices, which in turn would promote greater affordability that can be passed
along to consumers. RCA argues that even where Band Class 12 equipment can be made available, the
costs are unnecessarily inflated by the limited scale resulting from the lack of interoperability across the
700 MHz spectrum.62 According to the record, Cellular South was able to find a manufacturer willing to
supply it with devices that included, at a minimum, Band Class 12 frequencies, but “the cost of obtaining
such devices without the economies of scale available based upon demand for similar devices by a
nationwide carrier made pursuing the opportunity not economically feasible.”63 Cellular South asserts


58 Amendment of the Commission’s Rules to Establish New Personal Communications Services, RM-7140, RM-
7175, RM-7618, GEN Docket No. 90-314, Memorandum Opinion and Order, 9 FCC Rcd 4957, 5021-22 ¶¶ 163-64
(1994) (Broadband PCS Memorandum Opinion and Order).
59 Id. at 5022 ¶ 164.
60 Vulcan May 27, 2011 Ex Parte, Attachment at 11. Vulcan notes that AT&T developed a new band class and has
completed product development in the time it has taken Lower A Block licensees to get their band class approved
and that Verizon Wireless “had its LTE network deployed covering 100+ million US POPs before Band Class 12
was even fully ratified in the LTE standards body.” Id.
61 RTG Reply Comments in WT Docket No. 11-18 at 10.
62 See Letter from Steven K. Berry, President and CEO, RCA, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed Mar. 29, 2011, at 1.
RCA also states that equipment manufacture depends on scale economies and that AT&T and Verizon Wireless are
sufficiently large to achieve these economies alone. In contrast, Lower A Block licensees have insufficient scale to
develop affordable end user devices that would work on the A Block. Letter from Rebecca Murphy Thompson,
General Counsel, RCA, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed Aug. 10, 2010 (RCA Aug. 10, 2010 Ex Parte)
Attachment, “700 MHz Device Flexibility Promotes Competition” by Peter Cramton, Professor of Economics,
University of Maryland (Cramton Report) at 7.
63 Letter from David L. Nace, Lukas, Nace, Gutierrez, & Sachs, LLP, Counsel for 700 MHz Block A Good Faith
Purchasers Alliance, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed June 8, 2010, at 2 (Information regarding Cellular South’s
(continued….)
11

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

that the necessary “scale” to obtain pricing that would allow it to bring devices to market would be
expected to involve more than one million devices and in any case no less than a half million devices.64
20.
Nationwide providers AT&T and Verizon Wireless respond that Lower 700 MHz A
Block licensees are free to negotiate with device manufacturers.65 Verizon Wireless claims that “those
decisions have to be made by those carriers to meet their own individual business plans. Verizon
Wireless has nothing to do with those decisions.”66 Verizon Wireless also asserts that there are at least 33
companies that manufacture devices for the U.S. market and that Petitioners “provide no evidence about
their efforts (or the apparent lack thereof) to obtain the devices they want, either individually or through a
consortium, from any of these potential suppliers.”67
21.
We seek comment on Petitioners’ and other proponents’ argument that an interoperability
requirement in the 700 MHz band is necessary to obtain affordable, advanced mobile devices to deploy
service to consumers in smaller, regional, and rural service areas. To what extent have any Lower A
Block licensees successfully negotiated with equipment vendors to date? What efforts have other Lower
A Block licensees undertaken to negotiate with equipment vendors? Would an interoperability
requirement help enable Lower A Block licensees to benefit from economies of scale with respect to
mobile devices, and what would be the benefits to consumers? Do manufacturers require a provider to
purchase a minimum number of devices? If so, what is that number and is it prohibitive for a smaller
provider to achieve such a scale? We seek data and evidence in support of all of these claims.
22.
Effect on the Deployment of Advanced Broadband Services. The record to date suggests
that, unless mobile user equipment is capable of operating on all paired commercial Lower 700 MHz
spectrum, the deployment of facilities-based mobile broadband networks could be hampered, particularly
in rural and unserved areas. We note that a significant number of Lower A Block licenses are held by
smaller, rural, and regional licensees.68 Petitioners and proponents argue that requiring all Lower 700
(Continued from previous page)


experience was provided on behalf of Cellular South, a member of the 700 MHz Block A Good Faith Purchasers
Alliance, during the course of the ex parte presentation.).
64 Id.
65 AT&T Comments at 13 (asserting that “A Block licensees are free to negotiate with handset manufacturers to
design, manufacture, and deploy wireless handsets and other devices that operate within their spectrum holdings,
including Band Class 12 or other commercial spectrum”); Verizon Wireless Comments at 9 (asserting that
petitioners are free to work either collectively or individually with manufacturers to build devices that operate on the
spectrum their members voluntarily acquired, and those devices could include other spectrum besides Band Class
12).
66 Verizon Wireless Comments at 9 n.10. Verizon Wireless also asserts that the fact that 3GPP has established
various band classes for the LTE standard does not compel any service provider or any device manufacturer to use
any particular class, or to limit devices to operation in only one class, or to use LTE at all. Id. at 4. Further, other
arrangements of bands could be proposed for the LTE standard as another band class, and each provider deploying
LTE must determine which of the classes or combinations of classes is best suited to meet its authorized spectrum
requirements and its business plans. Id.
67 See id. at 9 n.10 (citing Letter from Christopher Guttman-McCabe, CTIA, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, RM
11361, filed May 12, 2009 at 2 and accompanying charts).
68 According to the Commission’s Universal Licensing Database (ULS), the 700 MHz A Block licensees include
Vulcan, U.S. Cellular (King Street Wireless), Rural Cellular Corp., PVT, NTUA Wireless, MetroPCS, Cox
Wireless, Continuum 700, CenturyTel, Cellular South, Cavalier Wireless, Alltel Communications Wireless, and
(continued….)
12

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

MHz licensees to use interoperable equipment would increase the likelihood that these Lower A Block
licensees can obtain the necessary financing to deploy networks and devices.69 They add that the inability
of small and regional providers to obtain interoperable devices impedes their ability to compete in the
provision of 4G services, makes it difficult to maintain current customers and acquire new ones, results in
equipment costs that are higher than for other bands, and creates uncertainty for spectrum holders that
could have adverse effects on investment in deployment of networks and devices.70 RCA and Triad argue
that Lower A Block licensees’ inability to obtain affordable end user devices could cause the A Block
spectrum to remain fallow for an extended period of time.71
23.
AT&T responds that an interoperability requirement in the Lower 700 MHz spectrum
would impose unreasonable burdens on AT&T’s ability to build out its Lower 700 MHz spectrum.
Specifically, AT&T claims that such a requirement would create “substantial disruption and delay to [its]
current LTE deployment plans and significant additional costs.”72 AT&T claims that if it were required to
abandon plans to use Band Class 17 and deploy a network around Band Class 12, it would need to
upgrade its LTE base stations and develop and obtain “new chipsets, devices and radio equipment, a
process that usually takes years to complete.”73 It also asserts that adding Band Class 12 capabilities into
its mobile devices along with Band Class 17 capabilities would make the devices substantially larger,
likely shorten battery life, and potentially require the tradeoff of other uses, such as bands used for
international roaming.74 In addition, as discussed below, AT&T’s objections also stem from issues
associated with potential interference concerns from Channel 51 operations and high power Lower E
Block broadcasts.75
(Continued from previous page)


Traid 700. We also note that Verizon Wireless holds many Lower A Block licenses. See Verizon Wireless
Comments at 11 (stating that it holds 25 such licenses); Verizon Wireless Reply Comments at 5.
69 Petition at 5; see also Triad Comments at 5. According to Blooston, separate band specifications for different
Lower 700 MHz Bands “will shift equipment design and development costs onto rural and regional 700 MHz
licensees and their customers” and “delay[ ] rural network buildout and availability of service . . . .” Blooston Reply
Comments at 2.
70 See, e.g., RCA Comments at 11 (“If the status quo is not altered, small rural and regional wireless carriers will be
less able to compete against the large wireless carriers, the Lower A Block spectrum will be devalued, consumers
will have fewer roaming options, and small rural and regional Lower A Block licensees will face high hurdles in
attempting to deploy broadband infrastructure utilizing 700 MHz spectrum in rural areas.”); Letter from David Nace,
Lukas, Nace, Gutierrez & Sachs, LLP, Counsel to Cellular South, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC filed Mar. 9, 2010 at 2
(asserting an urgent need for Commission action on interoperability to realize potential for competition in the 700
MHz bands); U.S. Cellular Comments at 2-3 (stating the lack of interoperability impedes competitive roll out of 4G
coverage by additional commercial providers, increases cost of Band Class 12 devices, and diminishes incentives for
innovation); Blooston Reply Comments at 8 (lack of interoperability harms consumers). RCA also asserts that
requiring interoperability in the 700 MHz Band will improve service, especially in rural areas, as a result of greater
coverage and seamless roaming. See RCA Aug. 10, 2010 Ex Parte, Cramton Report at 1.
71 See RCA Aug. 10, 2010 Ex Parte, Cramton Report at 7 (inability to obtain devices may cause Lower A Block
licenses to be “orphaned for multiple years”); Triad 700 Comments at 3 (lack of devices may cause smaller Lower A
Block licensees’ spectrum to “lay fallow for a long period of time”).
72 AT&T Dec. 9, 2011 Ex Parte in WT Dkt. No. 11-18 at 3.
73 Id.
74 Id.
75 Id.
13

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

24.
We ask commenters to submit additional detailed metrics to evaluate the effects of an
interoperability requirement on competition. Specifically, would the use of interoperable equipment
promote consumer choice by facilitating the portability of mobile devices between service providers,
thereby allowing consumers to switch more easily between providers?76 At the same time, would
deployment of Lower 700 MHz B and C Block service be delayed by a move towards interoperability,
either by rule or industry agreement? What would be the relevant costs associated with possible
Commission action? What costs would Lower 700 MHz B and C licensees who have already committed
to Band Class 17, or who plan to do so, incur if we adopt an interoperability rule in the Lower 700 MHz
spectrum?
25.
Would a requirement that mobile user equipment be capable of operating on all paired
commercial Lower 700 MHz spectrum facilitate deployment of facilities-based mobile broadband
networks in rural and unserved areas? Are Lower A Block licensees just as likely to obtain funding and
obtain affordable mobile equipment without Commission action? We also seek specific data and
anecdotal evidence to support claims that an interoperability obligation would require complete redesign
and upgrade of devices and base stations. We seek additional information on the necessary changes to
chipsets and the timeframes these changes will impose.
26.
U.S. Cellular recently announced the planned launch of a 4G LTE network that will cover
25 percent of U.S. Cellular’s customers and will use the 700 MHz licenses of its partner, King Street
Wireless.77 C-Spire, in contrast, reportedly has delayed its previously announced launch of its 4G LTE
network.78 We ask Lower A Block licensees to provide detailed information on the effect that a lack of
interoperability has had, if any, on their efforts to deploy service. Commenters should be as specific as
possible and should, where possible, include data or affidavits.
27.
Roaming. A number of commenters argue that an interoperability requirement would
promote roaming among 700 MHz licensees.79 These proponents argue that requiring the use of
interoperable equipment in the Lower 700 MHz band would promote the commercial availability of
mobile device equipment for all Lower 700 MHz licensees.80 Without that equipment, Lower 700 MHz
A Block licensees maintain they cannot build out their networks, which they claim is a prerequisite for the
negotiation of roaming agreements.81 Petitioners also claim that they have no reason to expect such


76 Consumers Union notes that lack of interoperability in the 700 MHz Band would prevent consumers from taking
their phones with them if they choose to sign up with a new wireless provider. Letter from Parul P. Desai, Policy
Counsel, Consumers Union, to Chairman Julius Genachowski, FCC, filed Feb. 10, 2011 (Consumers Union Feb. 11,
2011 Ex Parte) at 2.
77 See Press Release, U.S. Cellular, U.S. Cellular Announces Launch of 4G LTE Network Next Month Along With
Upcoming Devices (Feb. 1, 2012), available at http://www.uscellular.com/about/press-room/2012/USCELLULAR-
ANNOUNCES-LAUNCH-OF-4G-LTE-NETWORK-NEXT-MONTH-ALONG-WITH-UPCOMING-
DEVICES.html (last accessed Feb. 16, 2012) (U.S. Cellular Feb. 1, 2012 Press Release).
78See Alan F., C-Spire misses target date for LTE service, PHONEARENA.COM, http://www.phonearena.com/news/C-
Spire-misses-target-date-for-LTE-service_id25551 (last accessed Feb. 16, 2012).
79 See, e.g., Letter from Benjamin M. Moncrief, Director, Government Relations, C Spire Wireless, to Marlene H.
Dortch, FCC, filed Dec. 22, 2011 at 2; Letter from Grant B. Spellmeyer, Esq., Executive Director, Federal Affairs &
Public Policy, U.S. Cellular, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed Dec. 21, 2011 at 1; Free Press Dec. 20, 2011 Ex
Parte
at 2; Letter from Rebecca M. Thompson, General Counsel, RCA, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed Oct. 28,
2011 at 1; Petition at 4; PVT Comments at 4; FOP Comments at 2-6.
80 Petitioners Reply Comments at 21.
81 Petitioners Reply Comments at 22.
14

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

mobile devices to be available on a widespread, affordable basis in the 700 MHz band and without such
devices, there is nothing to negotiate.82 Petitioners contend that small rural and regional carriers are in no
position to place bulk orders for mobile devices that work in the Lower 700 MHz A Block and also work
in other 700 MHz frequency blocks.83 They claim that AT&T and Verizon Wireless are the only ones
who hold the market power with the device manufacturers and the two carriers currently are developing
mobile devices that work exclusively on their bands.84 Without interoperable devices, Petitioners state
that there will be no roaming in the 700 MHz band.85
28.
NTCA states that mobile customers rely on and expect a “seamless experience” that is
made possible by roaming arrangements.86 Without roaming, NTCA explains that customers will
experience “isolated islands of service.”87 Further, Petitioners and other supporters assert that even if
Band Class 12 equipment were available, from a technical perspective, Band Class 17 device users would
be unable to roam on Band Class 12 networks operating on Block A.88 They argue that a lack of
interoperability leaves customers of small carriers “without an option for a nationwide service,
perpetually unable to roam on the networks of the large carriers.”89
29.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless respond that the Lower A Block licensees are not prevented
from negotiating roaming arrangements with providers offering services on the other 700 MHz blocks.90
AT&T also responds that A Block licensees are free to negotiate with handset manufacturers to design,
manufacture and deploy wireless handsets and other devices that operate within the spectrum bands that
are needed based upon their spectrum holdings and business plans, including Band Class 12 or other
commercial spectrum.”91 AT&T argues that “[t]he Commission should not take action to force carriers to
utilize a certain spectrum band for roaming,” but that carriers should be able “to choose their roaming
partners based on factors like network compatibility, price, coverage, and call quality.”92 We seek
comment on whether interoperability would promote reasonable roaming arrangements among 700 MHz
providers and would increase the number of providers that are technologically compatible for roaming
partnership.

B.

Potential for Harmful Interference

30.
Even if the record demonstrates that the existence of two distinct band classes in the
Lower 700 MHz band is creating a device and network deployment problem, the Commission must


82 Petitioners Reply Comments at 22. As discussed above, U.S. Cellular, however, recently announced the
upcoming launch of two 4G LTE devices for the Lower 700 MHz Blocks. See U.S. Cellular Feb. 1, 2012 Press
Release, supra note 77.
83 Petitioners Reply Comments at 22.
84 Petitioners Reply Comments at 22-23.
85 Petitioners Reply Comments at 22.
86 NTCA Comments at 3-4.
87 NTCA Comments at 3.
88 See Petitioners Reply Comments at 20; Triad 700 Comments at 6; NTCH Comments at 3.
89 NTCA Comments at 4; see also Petitioners Reply Comments at 21.
90 AT&T Comments at 13; Verizon Wireless Comments at 6.
91 AT&T Comments at 13.
92 AT&T Comments at 13, n.20.
15

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

ultimately resolve the central question as to whether a single band class would cause widespread harmful
interference to Lower 700 MHz B and C Block licensees, who would otherwise use Band Class 17
devices rather than Band Class 12.
31.
Interoperability issues are particularly relevant at this time, as licensees are in the process
of deploying LTE in the Lower 700 MHz band. As of December 2011, AT&T has launched LTE service
using its Lower 700 MHz B and C Block licenses in 15 markets.93 In addition, as noted above, U.S.
Cellular recently announced the planned launch of an LTE network that will cover 25 percent of its
customers and will use the 700 MHz licenses of its partner, King Street Wireless.94 As discussed earlier,
there are two Lower 700 MHz band LTE standards for the Lower 700 MHz band, with 3GPP Band Class
17 spanning the B and C Blocks,95 and Band Class 12 spanning the A, B, and C Blocks.96 Some
commenters have argued that this, in turn, fragments the device ecosystem for LTE devices that operate in
the Lower 700 MHz band and prevents interoperability.97
32.
Commenters argue that there would be two primary interference concerns for providers
operating in the Lower 700 MHz B and C Blocks if these providers were to substitute Band Class 12 for
Band Class 17 in newly-offered devices (as opposed to adding Band Class 12 capabilities into devices
along with Band Class 17): (1) reverse intermodulation interference from adjacent DTV Channel 51
operations; and (2) blocking interference from neighboring high-powered operations in the Lower 700
MHz E Block.98 We focus our technical analysis on these two primary issues. We note that some
commenters also express concern regarding the need to deploy wider filters in order to migrate to Band
Class 12.99 We observe, however, that a transition from Band Class 17 to Band Class 12 does not
necessitate a change to base station filtering. Operators deploying networks in the Lower 700 MHz B and
C Blocks can continue to filter base station receivers as they would for Band Class 17, and thus
interference from Channel 51 to B and C Block base stations is the same regardless of whether Band


93 See AT&T Dec. 9, 2011 Ex Parte in WT Dkt. No. 11-18 at 3.
94 See supra note 77.
95 704 MHz-716 MHz and 734 MHz-746 MHz.
96 699 MHz-716 MHz and 729 MHz-746 MHz.
97 See, e.g., U.S. Cellular Comments at 6-7 (in the absence of vendor support by the two largest spectrum holders in
the 700 MHz band, the vendor community has been reluctant to develop chipsets, filters, amplifiers and other device
components to support Band Class 12 and 14 operations); Letter from Michele C. Farquhar, Hogan Lovells, Counsel
to Vulcan, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed Dec. 12, 2011, Attachment at 3 (700 MHz band is characterized by
“unprecedented band class fragmentation and delays, slower ecosystem development and less consumer choice”).
98 Letter from Trey Hanbury, Coalition for 4G in America, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed May 27, 2010
(Coalition for 4G in America May 27, 2010 Ex Parte) Attachment at 7-9 (now known as “Connect Public Safety
Now”); Letter from Lawrence R. Krevor, et al., Coalition for 4G in America, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, WT
Docket No. 06-150, PS Docket No. 06-229, GN Docket No. 09-51, filed Sept. 20, 2010, at 2; 3GPP TSG RAN WG4
(Radio) Meeting #47, R4-081108, “TS36.101: Lower 700 MHz Band 15”; Petitioners Reply Comments at 40-44;
Letter from Steve B. Sharkey, Senior Director, Reg. and Spectrum Policy, Motorola, et al., to Marlene H. Dortch,
FCC, filed Feb. 8, 2010 at 2; AT&T Comments at 2, 4-6. In light of the Commission’s recent approval of AT&T’s
acquisition of Qualcomm’s 700 MHz D Block licenses, however, high-powered D Block transmissions will no
longer pose an interference issue. See AT&T/Qualcomm Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 17616 ¶¶ 61-63 (requiring AT&T to
operate on D and E block spectrum under same power limits and antenna height restrictions applicable to Lower 700
MHz A and B Block licensees).
99 Qualcomm Comments at 2; Motorola Comments at 4.
16

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

Class 12 devices or Band Class 17 devices are used. Commenters also raise other potential interference
concerns, including interference from Band Class 12 devices into Channel 51 television receivers,100 and
other interference issues that are specific to operations in the A Block. We do not address those issues
herein. We focus the scope of this proceeding to interference to Lower 700 MHz B and C Block
operations that may result from the adoption of Band Class 12 devices by Lower 700 MHz B and C
licensees, whether voluntarily or by regulatory mandate.
33.
AT&T asserts that both reverse intermodulation and blocking interference are significant
issues. It expects that managing and mitigating the interference from Channel 51 and any high power
Lower E Block broadcasts to its network would account for the greatest expenses, and that its customers
would not, on balance, benefit from AT&T migrating to Band Class 12.101 AT&T argues that if it were
required to use Band Class 12 devices as opposed to Band Class 17 devices, its customers would be
forced to use devices that would expose them to interference risks (from Channel 51 and the E Block)
they otherwise would not face.102 Notwithstanding the foregoing, AT&T affirms that it does not object to
supporting interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band, assuming supply chain availability, if
interference challenges from Channel 51 and the Lower 700 MHz E Block licensees are addressed to its
satisfaction.103
34.
With regard to the Channel 51 interference concerns, Motorola’s view in its original
3GPP proposal to create Band Class 17 was that reverse intermodulation interference could happen when
Band Class 12 devices are close to high-powered Channel 51 transmission towers, which it believes could
result in in-band interference because of the limited radio frequency (RF) filtering capability of Band
Class 12 filters.104 According to Motorola’s paper, “the key issue” in determining the possibility of such
interference is “the level of the DTV Channel 51 wideband signal that would be present at the UE antenna
port based on a reasonable deployment scenario,” but Motorola does not provide evidence showing the
circumstances that could produce conditions suitable to create reverse intermodulation interference from
Channel 51.105
35.
Proponents of an interoperability requirement argue that no reverse intermodulation
interference would occur, and that if an operator does experience any such interference, solutions exist to


100 See, e.g., Letter from Joseph P. Marx, Assistant Vice President, AT&T Services, Inc., to Marlene H. Dortch,
FCC, filed May 28, 2010, Attachment at 5; Letter from Steve Sharkey et al., Motorola, Inc., to Marlene H. Dortch,
FCC, filed Feb. 12, 2010 at 2.
101 AT&T Dec. 9, 2011 Ex Parte in WT Dkt. No. 11-18 at 3. AT&T does not attempt to quantify the cost of
mitigating potential harmful interference to its network in the event of an interoperability requirement except to state
that the cost “could easily total billions of dollars.” Id. at 4.
102 AT&T Reply Comments at 10; AT&T July 29, 2011 Ex Parte at 6 (stating that an interoperability requirement
“would require consumers with Band 17 devices (that are free of interference risk from Channel 51and the E Block)
to obtain new devices with Band 12 radios that expose them to such interference”).
103 Letter from Joan Marsh, Vice President – Federal Regulatory, AT&T, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, WT Docket
No. 11-18, filed Dec. 22, 2011 at 1.
104 See Motorola, “TS36.101: Lower 700 MHz Band 15,” 3GPP TSG-RAN WG4 meeting #47, Kansas City, MO,
USA (April 2008) at 1-2, available at http://www.3gpp.org/ftp/tsg_ran/wg4_radio/TSGR4_47/Docs/R4-081108.zip.
(Motorola presented its paper at Meeting #47 of the WG4 in May 2008.) The large in-band interfering signals
would then combine with Band Class 12 device transmissions to generate intermodulation products in other parts of
the 700MHz Band. Id.
105 Id.
17

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

mitigate Channel 51 interference concerns to Band Class 12 devices operating in the B and/or C Blocks.
According to Cellular South and King Street Wireless, “With [less than five megahertz] Tx bandwidth,
any Channel 51-700 intermodulation products would not fall within the device receive blocks (no self-
interference issue).”106 They represent that this is because a strong signal from Channel 51 must mix with
a full-power Lower 700 MHz B and C Block device transmission, but “LTE base stations do not allow
devices to transmit at full power with [greater than five megahertz] bandwidth due to a self-desense
issue.”107 Essentially, Cellular South and King Street Wireless argue that power amplifier linearity in a
mobile device improves considerably when it is not transmitting at full power and that if the device
transmitted bandwidth is less than five megahertz, then intermodulation products resulting from the
combination of Channel 51 and Lower 700 MHz band C Block transmit frequencies would not cause
intermodulation interference. Finally, they point out that if intermodulation interference is experienced,
the wireless operator “may deploy an LTE base station several hundred meters away from the Channel 51
station to control device transmit power and provide a stronger downlink desired signal.”108
36.
Vulcan performed lab and field tests to test the assertion that “reverse intermodulation
distortion caused by Channel 51 using a Band Class 12 device would create an interfering signal in the B
Block receiver.”109 Based on the results of lab tests, Vulcan concludes that a minimum signal level of 0
dBm from Channel 51 would be necessary to create an interference signal at the noise floor of the B
Block receiver, and field measurements showed that Channel 51 transmissions were no stronger than -21
dBm. The report indicates that the strongest signal strength in the field measurements of DTV Channel
51 is typically much lower than necessary to generate noticeable reverse intermodulation interference.110
AT&T responds that the tests referenced by Vulcan do not represent real-world situations, because the
tests occurred only within a two kilometer radius of the Channel 51 tower, whereas stronger signals from
Channel 51 can occur at closer distances.111
37.
With regard to interference from Lower E Block operations, Motorola asserts that
receiver blocking performance may be degraded when Band Class 12 devices are close to high-powered
Lower E Block transmission towers, due to limited Band Class 12 device out-of-band blocking
rejection.112 According to AT&T, Band Class 17, with an extra six megahertz of separation from the
Lower E Block, was created to alleviate this concern, so that the device filter can provide sufficient
attenuation of the E Block transmissions.113 It further asserts that Band Class 12 has sub-optimal filtering
because of the lack of sufficient frequency separation between the Lower E Block and the starting
frequencies of Band Class 12.114


106 Cellular South/King Street May 27, 2011 Ex Parte, Attachment at 4.
107 Id., Attachment at 4.
108 Id., Attachment at 4.
109 Letter from Michele C. Farquhar, Hogan Lovells, Counsel to Vulcan, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed Nov. 30,
2011 (Vulcan Nov. 30, 2011 Ex Parte), Attachment, “Study to Review Interference Claims that have Thwarted
Interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz Band” at 12.
110 Id., Attachment at 12.
111 Letter from Jim Bugel, Asst. Vice President, Public Safety and Homeland Security, AT&T, to Marlene H.
Dortch, FCC, filed Dec. 7, 2011 (AT&T Dec. 7, 2011 Ex Parte) at 1.
112 Id. at 2.
113 AT&T July 29, 2011 Ex Parte at 2-4; AT&T Reply Comments at 10.
114 AT&T July 29, 2011 Ex Parte at 3-4.
18

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

38.
The Coalition for 4G asserts that network operators can eliminate potential interference
from Lower E Block operations by deploying the A, B, or C Block base stations near the E Block
transmitters.115 In support of its position that interference from Lower 700 MHz E Block transmitters is
manageable for Band Class 12 devices operating in Lower 700 MHz B and C blocks, Vulcan’s lab and
field tests assess the severity of interference issues to Band Class 12 devices from high power 50 kW
transmissions in the Lower 700 MHz E Block.116 The tests indicate that the Atlanta field measurements
of the highest signal power ratios between the 50 kW Lower E Block and B Block are typically 15 to 30
dB lower than necessary to produce Lower B Block receiver blocking. The tests conclude that real-world
tests found the anticipated interference circumstances are manageable and Band Class 17 is redundant.117
Vulcan also asserts that the test results confirm Band Class 12 devices performance would not be worse
than Band Class 17 devices, and that Band Class 17 already has greater levels of internal interference
from within the Lower B and C Blocks.
39.
In response, AT&T disagrees generally with the effectiveness of these potential
mitigation techniques, stating that (1) increasing the number of cell sites near E Block transmitters or
Channel 51 towers would increase the cost of providing 4G service, which would eventually be passed on
to consumers, and (2) given the limited number of available site locations, coordination alone is
insufficient to solve Band Class 12 interference issues.118 AT&T also asserts that adequate coverage of a
50 kW mobile broadcast service in the market in which Vulcan conducted its testing would require at
least thirteen Lower 700 MHz E Block transmitters, which would lead to higher signal levels compared to
the four transmitters that were active when testing was conducted by Vulcan.119 It is unclear, however,
how much higher the signal levels may be close to a Lower E Block transmitter that is surrounded by
twelve additional E Block transmitters versus one that is surrounded by only three. Whereas more base
stations will improve overall signal levels and coverage, basic engineering calculations would suggest that
any increase to the signal levels close to each base station, where signals may be strong enough to cause
in-band receiver blocking interference to neighboring bands, would be negligible.
40.
We seek comment on these and any additional technical and operational factors that
should be taken into consideration in any transition to an interoperable Lower 700 MHz band. We ask
interested parties to submit measurements and quantitative analyses regarding the magnitude and extent
of the interference risk from adjacent Channel 51 and Lower Block E transmissions for Band Class 12
devices operating in the Lower B and C Blocks. How effective are existing mitigation measures, such as
coordination between Lower 700 MHz and DTV Channel 51 licensees? Further, what innovative
technical measures might be introduced in the near future, such as better performing RF duplexers and
filters? What additional interoperability solutions exist or are being developed to address these
interference concerns? We also seek comment on the performance of Band Class 12 devices compared to
Band Class 17 devices, as well as on other factors relating to the operations in the Lower B and C Blocks.
Furthermore, in the event unwanted harmful interference cannot be mitigated in some areas, we seek
comment on whether the potential harm resulting from interference in those areas is outweighed by the


115 Coalition for 4G May 27, 2010 Ex Parte, Attachment at 9 (now known as “Connect Public Safety Now”).
116 Vulcan Nov. 30, 2011 Ex Parte, Attachment at 1-2.
117 Vulcan Nov. 30, 2011 Ex Parte, Attachment at 15-16 (field measurements were conducted with a 3dBi gain
antenna; typical 700 MHz device antenna gain is -5dBi).
118 Letter from Joseph P. Marx, Assistant Vice President, Federal Regulatory, AT&T, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC,
filed Nov. 2, 2010 at 4-5, 6-7.
119 AT&T Dec. 7, 2011 Ex Parte at 2.
19

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

public interest benefits that would result from interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band, and what
factors should be considered in balancing these concerns.
41.
As noted above, should Band Class 12 be substituted in devices for Band Class 17,
operational issues may arise to the extent that a single network must be capable of supporting more than
one device band class. That is, if a licensee chooses to continue supporting its existing grandfathered
Band Class 17 devices, the wireless network will need to support both Band Class 17 devices and Band
Class 12 devices. We seek comment on possible ways to address this issue. Since the two Band Classes
overlap in frequencies, we think it is likely that there are relatively simple, cost effective solutions that
will allow a single network to accommodate devices from both band classes. For example, would the
Equivalent Home Public Land Mobile Network file (EHPLMN) update in devices allow the LTE network
to support both Band Class 12 and Band Class 17 devices?120
42.
We seek comment on whether there are measures the Commission should take to address
Lower 700 MHz interference concerns that may be preventing the voluntary adoption of Band Class 12
by Lower B and C Block licensees. We note that AT&T asks the Commission to “modify the rules
governing service in Channel 51 and in the 700 MHz Lower E Block to permit power levels, out of band
emissions and antenna heights that are no greater than those currently permitted in the 700 MHz Lower A
and B blocks, to allow downlink only in the Lower E Block and uplink only in Channel 51, and to
relocate any incumbent high power broadcast operations out of Channel 51 and the Lower E Block.”121
In approving AT&T’s acquisition of Qualcomm’s Lower 700 MHz licenses (comprising all of the Lower
700 MHz D Block licenses and five of the Lower E Block licenses), the Commission included a condition
that AT&T operate under the same power limits and height restrictions applicable to Lower 700 MHz A
and B Block licensees, which will reduce the instances of high-powered operations in the Lower D and E
Blocks.122 Specifically, the Commission stated that “AT&T must operate on the Lower D and E Block
licenses consistent with the limits set forth in Section 27.50(c), excluding Subsection 27.50(c)(7).”123 The
Commission also conditioned the transaction on AT&T’s use of this spectrum only for downlink
transmissions.124 In addition, it conditioned the transaction on AT&T taking certain steps to mitigate
possible interference caused by AT&T’s use of the Lower D and E Blocks to the uplink operations of
licensees operating in the Lower 700 MHz A, B, and C Blocks, including mitigating interference within
30 days after receiving written notice from the A, B, or C Block licensee.125


120 Qualcomm, Inc., “Multimode System Selection (MMSS) Basic Provisioning,” 80-W3637-1 Rev B at 6-7 (Jan. 5,
2012), available at http://www.qualcomm.com/search/?query=%2280-W3637-1+Rev+B%22.
121 AT&T Dec. 22, 2011 Ex Parte in WT Dkt. No. 11-18 at 1-2.
122 AT&T/Qualcomm Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 17616 ¶¶ 62-63.
123 AT&T/Qualcomm Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 17616 ¶ 62.
124 AT&T/Qualcomm Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 17616 ¶ 65.
125 AT&T/Qualcomm Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 17617 ¶ 67. Specifically, the condition requires AT&T to “(1)
coordinate with the A, B, or C Block licensee to mitigate potential interference; (2) mitigate interference to A, B, or
C Block operations within 30 days after receiving written notice from the A, B, or C Block licensee; and (3) ensure
that D/E Block transmissions in areas where another licensee holds the A, B, or C Block license are filtered at least
to the extent that D/E Block transmissions are filtered in markets where AT&T holds the A, B, or C Block license,
as applicable.” Id. U.S. Cellular urges the Commission to seek comment on and adopt a rule that imposes
conditions on Lower E Block licensees consistent with the power limit restrictions, requirement for downlink-only
transmissions, and interference mitigation requirements in the conditions adopted in the AT&T/Qualcomm Order.
U.S. Cellular asserts that “[i]mposition of such conditions will serve the public interest by helping to accelerate the
(continued….)
20

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

43.
We seek comment on whether we should modify our rules for Lower 700 MHz D and E
Block operations, using the technical conditions set forth in the AT&T/Qualcomm decision as a template.
Modifying our rules in this manner would lead to consistency in the technical requirements for the Lower
D and E Blocks and would help to address potential harmful interference from operations on the Lower E
Block licenses that are not held by AT&T. Would these modifications adequately address concerns that
Lower B and C Block licensees may experience harmful interference from Lower D and E Block
operations if they transition to Band Class 12? As a practical matter, would modifying our rules in this
manner encourage Lower B and C Block licensees to voluntarily adopt interoperable devices? We also
seek comment on how such modifications would affect the operations and plans of Lower E Block
licensees, other than AT&T. What other modifications to the Lower 700 MHz D and E Block technical
operational rules should we consider and what are the costs and public interest benefits of these
alternative rules?
44.
With respect to potential interference as a result of Channel 51 operations, are there steps
the Commission could take to reduce the threat of such potential interference that would balance the
needs and rights of Channel 51 incumbents with Lower 700 MHz licensees? What role, if any, should the
passage of the Spectrum Act, which gives the Commission authority to conduct incentive auctions,
including in the television broadcast bands,126 have in our approach to potential interference from Channel
51 to the Lower 700 MHz band licensees? Could any measures be implemented without causing an undue
burden on existing licensees? What is the likelihood that Channel 51 licensees will experience
interference from operations in the Lower 700 MHz band?127 Vulcan asserts that “Band Class 12 device
interference into TV receivers is a claim that has never been substantiated,” and that the potential for
Channel 51 licensees to cause interference to A Block base stations “is a deployment issue to be managed
by the Lower A Block licensees.”128 Aside from regulatory measures, what steps should the Commission
take to encourage voluntary industry efforts to find solutions to interference concerns?
45.
Other Issues. Commenters are concerned that if a provider adds Band Class 12
capabilities into mobile devices along with Band Class 17 (as opposed to substituting Band Class 12 for
Band Class 17 in newly offered devices), the devices will be adversely affected with respect to form
factor, cost, and battery life.129 We seek comment on these assertions. What network-specific issues
would arise, and how could licensees address those issues? How difficult or costly would it be for
licensees to address any network-specific issues? Are there interim as well as long-term solutions that
might be employed, and what is their timing? Are there any roaming or legacy device support issues that
one solution may address that another may not? Given the highly technical and complex nature of this
proceeding, we seek qualitative and quantitative data and engineering analyses to support commenters’
claims.
(Continued from previous page)


further development of the Lower 700 MHz ecosystem.” Letter from Grant B. Spellmeyer, Executive Director,
Federal Affairs and Public Policy, U.S. Cellular, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed March 15, 2012, at 1.
126 See Spectrum Act, Pub. L. No. 112-96, 126 Stat. 158, 222-25 (2012).
127 We note that we intend to open a separate proceeding to address potential interference issues between Channel
51 television operations and Lower 700 MHz A Block operations.
128 Letter from Michele C. Farquhar, Hogan Lovells, Counsel to Vulcan, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed Dec. 15,
2011, Attachment at 4.
129 AT&T Dec. 9, 2011 Ex Parte in WT Docket No. 11-18 at 3; Letter from Praveen Goyal, Senior Director,
Corporate and Government Relations, Research In Motion Corp., to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed July 27, 2011,
Attachment at 10-13.
21

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

46.
Finally, we seek comment on whether our efforts should be focused exclusively – as they
are now – on interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band, as opposed to the entire band. As we noted
above, although the Petition initially requests an interoperability requirement that requires mobile
equipment to be capable of operating on all paired commercial frequency blocks in both the Upper and
Lower 700 MHz bands, subsequent filings from some of the proponents of an interoperability
requirement focus on requiring the use of Band Class 12 devices in the Lower 700 MHz band.130 We note
that there are unique interference environments and different technology-related issues, including the
ability of equipment to accommodate multi-band interoperability, that are specific to the Lower versus
Upper 700 MHz bands, as well as additional issues pertaining to consideration of requiring equipment to
accommodate multi-band interoperability.131

C.

Promoting Interoperability

47.
Assuming we conclude that concerns regarding harmful interference to Lower 700 MHz
B and C Block licensees are not a reasonable obstacle to interoperability or can be mitigated through
industry efforts and/or Commission action, we seek comment on whether there is likely to be a timely
industry solution to interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band, or whether additional regulatory
measures will be necessary to promote interoperability across the Lower 700 MHz band. Commenters
currently supporting Band Class 17 suggest that resolving interference concerns would encourage the use
of Band Class 12. For example, Verizon asserts that it “fully supports commercial development of Band
Class 12 devices,” and that “actions addressing interference issues would spur evolution of the device
market toward full Lower 700 MHz interoperability.”132 AT&T asserts that, if interference challenges
from high power broadcasts in Channel 51 and in the Lower 700 MHz E Block are addressed
satisfactorily, it will not object to supporting interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band.133 Further,
AT&T contends that “these challenges can and should be addressed.”134 Absent a regulatory mandate to
implement interoperability, will Lower 700 MHz licensees voluntarily ensure that all of the Lower 700
MHz spectrum used for mobile transmit is included in their mobile equipment?
48.
In what timeframe would a voluntary migration to interoperable devices reasonably take


130 See supra n.35. We note that certain recent ex parte filings urge the Commission to consider interoperability
across the entire 700 MHz band in light of the recent passage of the Spectrum Act, either now or in a future
proceeding. See, e.g., Letter from Harold Feld, Legal Director, Public Knowledge, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed
March 13, 2012 at 2; Letter from Kathleen O’Brien Ham, Vice President, Federal Regulatory Affairs, T-Mobile
USA, Inc., to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed March 13, 2012 at 1, 4. Our focus on the Lower 700 MHz band in this
NPRM does not preclude our consideration of broader interoperability issues, including interoperability across the
entire 700 MHz band, in the future.
131 The recent technical study submitted by a consortium of several Lower 700 MHz A Block licensees focuses on
interference issues associated with the use of Band Class 17 versus Band Class 12 in the Lower 700 MHz Band. See
Letter from Mark W. Brennan, Hogan Lovells, Counsel to Vulcan, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed Nov. 25, 2011,
Attachment, “Study to Review Interference Claims that have Thwarted Interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz
Band.” We note that requiring interoperability in the Upper 700 MHz Band would introduce additional and unique
interference scenarios, particularly technical issues related to implementing both Band Class 13 and Band Class 14
in a single device, as well as the use of such a device while also protecting GPS receivers and Public Safety
Narrowband operations.
132 Letter from Tamara Preiss, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Verizon Wireless, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC,
filed Feb. 13, 2012 at 1.
133 AT&T Dec. 22, 2011 Ex Parte in WT Dkt. No. 11-18 at 1.
134 AT&T Dec. 22, 2011 Ex Parte in WT Dkt. No. 11-18 at 1.
22

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

place? We note that while U.S. Cellular recently announced that it has impending plans to launch 4G
LTE service, together with its partner King Street Wireless L.P., it nevertheless asserts that “the
Commission must still act quickly to address issues related to interoperability within the lower 700 MHz
bands.”135 Similarly, proponents of an interoperability requirement argue that action must be taken by the
end of 2012.136 Aside from the widespread and exclusive adoption of Band Class 12 in devices, which
would necessitate only a single duplexer solution, what other solutions exist that might address
interoperability concerns without regulatory intervention and within a reasonable timeframe? What
would be a reasonable timeframe for a path to interoperability, and how will this timing affect consumers
and competition?
49.
We think that an industry solution to the question of interoperability in the Lower 700
MHz band would be preferable because such a solution allows the market greater flexibility in responding
to evolving consumer needs and dynamic and fast-paced technological developments.137 At the same
time, we recognize that if the industry fails to move timely toward interoperability once interference
concerns are adequately addressed (by regulatory action or otherwise), additional regulatory steps might
be appropriate to further the public interest. The Commission staff will remain vigilant in monitoring the
state of interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band to ensure that the industry is making sufficient
progress. What metrics and quantifiable data can the Commission use to measure whether the industry is
making adequate progress towards achieving interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band? In the event
that such steps are warranted, we seek comment on whether it would be necessary to mandate
interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band or whether there are other, flexible regulatory measures that
we should consider.
50.
In the event that interference concerns are reasonably addressed and the Commission is
left with no other option to maximize innovation and investment in the Lower 700 MHz band besides
mandating mobile device interoperability, one approach would be to require Lower 700 MHz A, B, or C
Block licensees, with respect to their networks operating in this spectrum, to use only mobile user
equipment that has the capability to operate across all of these blocks. For example, those licensees
deploying LTE in the Lower 700 MHz band would no longer be allowed to offer mobile units operating
on Band Class 17, which provides for operation on only the Lower 700 MHz B and C Blocks. Those
licensees deploying LTE in the Lower 700 MHz band would substitute Band Class 17 with Band Class
12.138 We note that this approach focuses on mobile user device interoperability and would not require
modifications to Lower 700 MHz B and C Block licensees’ base stations beyond those necessary to
support Band Class 12 devices operating on these licensees’ authorized Lower 700 MHz frequencies
only. In other words, we are not contemplating requiring licensees to implement base station operations
on frequencies they do not have the potential to use, in order to spur production of base station elements
that can be used only by licensees operating on other frequencies. We seek comment on this approach
and how, if adopted, it would promote key public interest objectives, including competition and consumer


135 Letter from Grant B. Spellmeyer, Executive Director, Federal Affairs and Public Policy, U.S. Cellular, to
Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed Feb. 8, 2012, at 1.
136 See, e.g., Letter from Rebecca Murphy Thompson, General Counsel, RCA, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed Jan.
19, 2012, at 2 (interoperability “must be implemented before the end of 2012 if competitive carriers are to remain
viable”); Letter from Michele C. Farquhar, Counsel to Vulcan Wireless LLC, to Marlene H. Dortch, FCC, filed
March 14, 2012, at 1 (requesting that the Commission adopt “an order in this proceeding before the end of 2012 that
mandates interoperability across the Lower 700 MHz paired spectrum band as well as an implementation timeline”).
137 See Broadband PCS Memorandum Opinion and Order, 9 FCC Rcd at 5021-22 ¶¶ 163-64.
138 See supra III. B (Potential for Harmful Interference).
23

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

choice among mobile broadband service providers, the widespread deployment of 4G networks,
particularly in rural and unserved areas, the availability of additional innovative 4G devices, and
increased roaming opportunities. In order to facilitate a smooth transition to interoperable mobile
equipment use in the Lower 700 MHz band, we would propose a reasonable transition period of no longer
than two years after the effective date of an interoperability requirement, thereby minimizing the
possibility of stranded investments in existing equipment. Furthermore, we would propose to grandfather
the use of devices already in use by consumers as of the transition deadline, so that consumers using
existing Band Class 17 equipment would not be adversely affected. We seek comment on this approach –
as well as on any alternative approaches, including associated costs and benefits – that might equally
satisfy our public interest objectives in promoting the widespread deployment of broadband service and
increased competition and consumer choice in the mobile broadband marketplace.
51.
We note that, in considering whether to adopt rules to promote the development of
interoperable equipment in the Lower 700 MHz band, we will consider a number of factors, including the
costs or burdens that any such new obligation would impose on licensees or others, and whether the costs
would be offset by benefits to consumers, including those that would result from innovation in the
marketplace, increased investments in networks, or additional competition. We therefore request
comment on the costs and the benefits of adopting rules that would promote interoperability. We also
seek comment on the costs and benefits of an industry-based solution to interoperability in the Lower 700
MHz band. Are there cost savings to consider, or conversely, are there costs that Lower 700 MHz
licensees would incur if the industry resolved the interoperability issue without a regulatory mandate?
52.
Commenters should quantify the costs of implementing any proposed solutions to the
interference issues discussed above. We seek comment on costs that Lower 700 MHz B and C licensees
are likely to incur in order to comply with a device interoperability requirement, including quantification
of the costs to develop and obtain new compatible chipsets or front ends; design and manufacture new
mobile devices; and develop any hardware or software changes necessary to implement an
interoperability requirement. How much will the costs and prices of devices change as a result of an
interoperability requirement? We seek comment on the revenue implications an interoperability
requirement would have for providers and device manufacturers. We also seek comment on quantifiable
ways in which licensees may benefit from a sunset of devices capable of operating only on a subset of
paired Lower 700 MHz frequencies. For example, will Lower 700 MHz licensees achieve economies of
scale in devices? We seek quantification of these economies of scale. What cost savings might result
from an interoperability rule? We also seek comment on the potential costs associated with
interoperability if interference cannot be mitigated in some areas. In these areas, will the public interest
benefits from interoperability outweigh the costs?
53.
We seek data on consumer benefits that may result from interoperability, including
greater affordability and availability of 4G equipment, increasing consumer choice in equipment,
promoting the widespread deployment of broadband services, providing greater options in selecting a
service provider, and facilitating greater roaming opportunities. How would a rule requiring
interoperability affect innovation and investment, both in the near term and in the longer term? Would
such a requirement foster additional competition, and how would any increase in competition be
measured?
54.
What are the particular benefits to consumers or others that would result from a device
interoperability requirement that includes a reasonable transition period (e.g., two years) and grandfathers
the use of existing, non-interoperable devices after the transition deadline? We seek comment on the
costs that licensees may incur in continuing to offer service for non-interoperable devices. How long will
such devices need to be supported? Are there any classes of customers that will require longer-term
support than others? Further, we seek comment on the extent to which the proposed transition period
minimizes or alleviates any adverse economic impact to licensees and device manufacturers. Is there an
24

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

optimal transition period that would reduce costs to the extent practicable while maximizing benefits?
55.
In providing responses to these questions, we ask commenters to take into account only
those costs and benefits that directly result from the implementation of particular rules that could be
adopted. Commenters should identify the various costs and benefits associated with a particular
requirement. Further, to the extent possible, commenters should provide specific data and information,
such as actual or estimated dollar figures for each specific cost or benefit addressed, including a
description of how the data or information was calculated or obtained, and any supporting documentation
or other evidentiary support.
56.
Legal authority. Finally, we seek comment on our authority to mandate a device
interoperability requirement should interference concerns be reasonably addressed and there be no
industry solution in place. The record is divided on this issue. On the one hand, Petitioners argue that the
Commission should find the current contractual arrangements between wireless providers and equipment
providers unlawful under Section 201(b), which prohibits unjust or unreasonable practices in connection
with communications services, and Section 202(a), which prohibits unjust or unreasonable
discrimination.139 Petitioners also claim that a device interoperability requirement would fall within the
purview of Section 1 of the Communications Act, which directs the Commission to establish policies that
promote the provision of communications service to all people of the United States, without
discrimination.140 Petitioners argue that, at a minimum, “Section 1 can be combined by the Commission
with other ‘express delegations of authority’ to enable the Commission to exercise ancillary jurisdiction
over issues that are reasonably related to the policies stated in Section 1.”141 Commenters also reference
additional sections of the Communications Act as support for Commission authority, including: Section
4(i), which specifies that the Commission “may . . . make such rules and regulations . . . as may be
necessary in the execution of its functions”;142 Section 254(b)(3), which sets forth universal service
principles;143 Section 303(g), to “encourage the larger and more effective use of radio in the public
interest;144 Section 303(r), which directs the Commission to prescribe such restrictions and conditions as
necessary to carry out the provisions of the Act;145 Section 307(b), which directs the Commission to
consider a “fair, efficient and equitable” distribution of radio services in applications for licenses,
modifications, and renewals,146 and Section 706, which encourages the reasonable and timely deployment
of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans through “measures that promote competition
in the local telecommunications market, or other regulating methods that remove barriers to infrastructure
investment.”147


139 Petition at 7-8 (citing 47 U.S.C. §§ 201(b), 202(a)); see also Triad 700 Comments at 11.
140 Petition at 9 (citing 47 U.S.C. § 151).
141 Petitioners Reply Comments at 65 (citing Comcast v. FCC, 600 F.3d 642, 657 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (slip op. at 19)
(“Comcast”)).
142 Petition at 1 (citing 47 U.S.C. § 154(i)).
143 Petition at 8; Triad 700 Comments at 11 (citing 47 U.S.C. § 254(b)(3)).
144 Vulcan Reply Comments at 8 (citing 47 U.S.C. § 303(g)).
145 Petition at 1 (citing 47 U.S.C. § 303(r)).
146 Petition at 9 (citing 47 U.S.C. § 307(b)). See also PVT Comments at 6; Blooston Comments at 6 (arguing that
the larger providers’ equipment design and procurement practices are contrary to the Commission’s obligation “to
ensure ‘a fair, efficient and equitable distribution of radio service’ to all states . . . .”).
147 Triad 700 Comments at 11 (citing 47 U.S.C. § 1302(a)).
25

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

57.
On the other hand, other commenters argue that Petitioners fail to cite a valid legal basis
to adopt such an interoperability requirement. Both Verizon and AT&T argue that Sections 201 and 202
prohibit providers from unreasonable practices or discrimination among consumers.148 Verizon and
AT&T also argue that the other provisions referenced by supporters of an interoperability requirement do
not grant the Commission the authority to regulate equipment,149 or else are not substantive grants of
authority for Commission action.150
58.
We observe that, under Title III of the Communications Act, the Commission has broad
and extensive authority to manage the use of spectrum.151 This authority includes the power and
obligation to condition our licensing actions on compliance with requirements that we deem consistent
with the public interest, convenience, and necessity,152 including operational requirements, if the
condition or obligations will further the goals of the Communications Act without contradicting any basic
parameters of the agency’s authority.153 It also includes the powers to “prescribe the nature of the service
to be rendered by each class of licensed stations and each station within any class,”154 to “generally
encourage the larger and more effective use of radio in the public interest,”155 and to modify licenses if, in


148 Verizon Comments at 18; AT&T Reply Comments at 19.
149 Verizon Comments at 17-19; AT&T Reply Comments at 19.
150 Verizon Comments at 17-19 (stating that Sections 4(i) and 303(r) “merely grant rulemaking authority to the
Commission to carry out the substantive provisions of the Act, and contain no substantive grant of authority
themselves”). Verizon states that Sections 1 and 706 are “statements of Congressional policy” and, as such, are not
grants of Congressional authority for any specific regulatory action. Verizon Reply Comments at 10 (citing
Comcast, 600 F.3d at 654 (slip op. at 17)). Both AT&T and Verizon dismiss Section 254(b)(3) as inapplicable in
this case. AT&T Reply Comments at 19; Verizon Reply Comments at 10. AT&T and Verizon further argue that
Section 307(b) applies only to radio station licensing, not regulation of equipment. Verizon Comments at 18-19;
AT&T Reply Comments at 19.
151 See, e.g., 47 U.S.C. § 301 (stating that “[i]t is the purpose of this Act, among other things, to maintain the control
of the United States over all the channels of radio transmission; and to provide for the use of such channels, but not
the ownership thereof, by persons for limited periods of time, under licenses granted by Federal authority, and no
such license shall be construed to create any right, beyond the terms, conditions, and periods of the license”).
152 See, e.g., 47 U.S.C. §§ 301 (authorizing the Commission to issue licenses for use of radio spectrum); 304 (stating
that “[n]o station license shall be granted by the Commission until the applicant therefore shall have waived any
claim to the use of any particular frequency or of the electromagnetic spectrum as against the regulatory power of
the United States because of the previous use of the same, whether by license or otherwise”); 307(a) (stating that
Commission shall grant licenses “if public convenience, interest, or necessity will be served thereby, subject to the
limitations of [the Communications Act]”); 309(j)(3) (requiring the Commission to design and conduct competitive
bidding systems for issuance of licenses to promote the purposes of section 1 of the Act and specified statutory
objectives, including “the development and rapid deployment of new technologies, products, and services for the
benefit of the public, including those residing in rural areas”).
153 See, e.g., 47 U.S.C. § 303(r) (stating that if “the public convenience, interest, or necessity requires [, the
Commission] shall. . . prescribe such restrictions and conditions, not inconsistent with law, as may be necessary to
carry out the provisions of this Act”); Schurz Communications, Inc. v. FCC, 982 F.2d 1043 (7th Cir. 1992)
(Communications Act invests Commission with “enormous discretion” in promulgating licensee obligations that the
agency determines will serve the public interest).
154 47 U.S.C. § 303(b).
155 47 U.S.C. § 303(g). See also 47 U.S.C. § 151 (creating the Commission for the purpose of regulating
communications in order to make available to all people of the United States a rapid, efficient, nationwide and
world-wide communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable prices).
26

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

the judgment of the Commission, such action will promote the public interest, convenience, and
necessity.156 Furthermore, the Communications Act provides the Commission with broad powers under
such provisions as Section 302(a) to promulgate regulations designed to address radio frequency (RF)
interference, including the regulation of devices that are capable of emitting RF energy,157 and Section
303(e) and (f), which empower the Commission to regulate licensees and the equipment and apparatus
they use.158
59.
We seek comment on the Commission’s statutory authority to adopt a device
interoperability requirement. We note that the Commission has previously required interoperability
across licensed spectrum as a means to “insure full coverage in all markets and compatibility on a
nationwide basis.”159 In addition, by promoting the availability of subscriber handsets and network
buildout of Lower 700 MHz A Block licenses, an interoperability requirement of the type discussed here
can facilitate the provision of roaming services, which is subject to Commission rules.160 We seek
comment on our analysis of these Title III statutory provisions as a basis for our authority to take the
actions proposed herein.

IV.

CONCLUSION

60.
In this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, we are focused primarily on resolving a long-
running dispute over the threat of interference to Lower 700 MHz B and C Block licensees either by
agreement on the part of these licensees to be interoperable with the Lower 700 MHz A Block licensees,
or by a regulatory mandate for such interoperability. Should the Commission find that interference
concerns are truly minimal or can be reasonably mitigated, then the Commission, along with industry,
must determine the next best steps to ensure interoperability. Our aim is to explore various options
through this proceeding that help achieve the ultimate goal of interoperability.


156 See 47 U.S.C. § 316(a)(1) (stating that “[a]ny station license or construction permit may be modified by the
Commission either for a limited time or for the duration of the term thereof, if in the judgment of the Commission
such action will promote the public interest, convenience, and necessity”); see also Committee for Effective Cellular
Rules v. FCC
, 53 F.3d 1309 (D.C. Cir. 1995).
157 See, e.g., 47 U.S.C. § 302a(a) (providing Commission with authority, consistent with the public interest,
convenience and necessity, to make reasonable regulations “governing the interference potential of devices which in
their operation are capable of emitting radio frequency energy by radiation, conduction, or other means in sufficient
degree to cause harmful interference to radio communications”).
158 See, e.g., 47 U.S.C. §§ 303(e) (providing Commission with authority to “[r]egulate the kind of apparatus to be
used with respect to its external effects and the purity and sharpness of the emissions from each station and from the
apparatus therein”) and 303(f) (providing Commission with authority to “[m]ake such regulations not inconsistent
with law as it may deem necessary to prevent interference between stations and to carry out the provisions of this
Act”).
159 See Cellular Report & Order, 86 FCC 2d at 482.
160 See 47 U.S.C. § 303(r). The Commission has imposed voice roaming requirements for interconnected CMRS
providers under, inter alia, its Title II authority, and requirements to promote the availability of data roaming
arrangements under, inter alia, its Title III authority. See, e.g., Reexamination of Roaming Obligations of
Commercial Mobile Radio Service Providers and Other Providers of Mobile Data Services, WT Docket No. 05-265,
Order on Reconsideration and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 25 FCC Rcd 4181, 4184 ¶ 5 (2010)
(based on Commission’s Title II authority); Reexamination of Roaming Obligations of Commercial Mobile Radio
Service Providers and Other Providers of Mobile Data Services, WT Docket No. 05-265, Second Report and Order,
26 FCC Rcd 5411, 5439-46 ¶¶ 61-68 (2011) (based on Commission’s Title III authority).
27

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

V.

PROCEDURAL MATTERS

A.

Ex Parte Rules

61.
The proceeding initiated by this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking shall be treated as a
“permit-but-disclose” proceeding in accordance with the Commission’s ex parte rules.161 Persons making
ex parte presentations must file a copy of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any
oral presentation within two business days after the presentation (unless a different deadline applicable to
the Sunshine period applies). Persons making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda
summarizing the presentation must: (1) list all persons attending or otherwise participating in the meeting
at which the ex parte presentation was made; and (2) summarize all data presented and arguments made
during the presentation. If the presentation consisted in whole or in part of the presentation of data or
arguments already reflected in the presenter’s written comments, memoranda, or other filings in the
proceeding, the presenter may provide citations to such data or arguments in his or her prior comments,
memoranda, or other filings (specifying the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where such data or
arguments can be found) in lieu of summarizing them in the memorandum. Documents shown or given
to Commission staff during ex parte meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must
be filed consistent with rule 1.1206(b). In proceedings governed by rule 1.49(f) or for which the
Commission has made available a method of electronic filing, written ex parte presentations and
memoranda summarizing oral ex parte presentations, and all attachments thereto, must be filed through
the electronic comment filing system available for that proceeding and must be filed in their native format
(e.g., .doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf). Participants in this proceeding should familiarize themselves with
the Commission’s ex parte rules.

B.

Filing Requirements

62.
Pursuant to Sections 1.415 and 1.419 of the Commission’s rules,162 interested parties may
file comments and reply comments on or before the dates indicated on the first page of this document.
Comments may be filed using: (1) the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (“ECFS”), (2)
the Federal Government’s eRulemaking Portal, or (3) by filing paper copies.163
·
Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically using the Internet by accessing the
ECFS: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/ or the Federal eRulemaking Portal:
http://www.regulations.gov.
·
Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and one copy of each
filing. If more than one docket or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this
proceeding, filers must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or rulemaking
number.
Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by
first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the
Commission’s Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
o All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for the Commission’s
Secretary must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 445 12th St., SW, Room TW-


161 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.1200 et seq.
162 See id. §§ 1.415, 1.419.
163 See Electronic Filing of Documents in Rulemaking Proceedings, GC Docket No. 97-113, Report and Order, 13
FCC Rcd 11322 (1998).
28

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

A325, Washington, DC 20554. All hand deliveries must be held together with rubber
bands or fasteners. Any envelopes must be disposed of before entering the building.
The filing hours are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
o Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express Mail and Priority
Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
o U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail must be addressed to 445
12th Street, SW, Washington DC 20554.
63.
Comments, reply comments, and ex parte submissions will be available for public
inspection during regular business hours in the FCC Reference Center, Federal Communications
Commission, 445 12th Street, S.W., CY-A257, Washington, D.C., 20554. These documents will also be
available via ECFS. Documents will be available electronically in ASCII, Microsoft Word, and/or Adobe
Acrobat.
64.
To request information in accessible formats (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio
format), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs
Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY). This document can also be downloaded in
Word and Portable Document Format (PDF) at: http://www.fcc.gov.
65.
For additional information on this proceeding, contact Brenda Boykin of the Spectrum
and Competition Policy Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, at (202) 418-2062.

C.

Initial Regulatory Flexibility Act Analysis

66.
As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (“RFA”),164 the Commission has
prepared an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) relating to this NPRM. The IRFA is attached
to this NPRM as an Appendix. Written public comments are requested on the IRFA. These comments
must be filed in accordance with the same filing deadlines as comments filed in response to this Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking as set forth on the first page of this document and have a separate and distinct
heading designating them as responses to the IRFA.

D.

Paperwork Reduction Act

67.
This document does not contain proposed information collection(s) subject to the
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), Public Law 104-13. In addition, therefore, it does not contain
any new or modified information collection burden for small business concerns with fewer than 25
employees, pursuant to the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002, Public Law 107-198, see 44
U.S.C. 3506(c)(4).

VI.

ORDERING CLAUSES

68.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED, pursuant to Sections 1, 2, 4(i), 4(j), 301, 302(a), 303(b),
303(e), 303(f), 303(g), 303(r), 304, 307(a), 309(j)(3), and 316(a)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934,
as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 151, 152, 154(i), 154(j), 301, 302a(a), 303(b), 303(e), 303(f), 303(g), 303(r),
304, 307(a), 309(j)(3), and 316(a)(1), and Sections 1.401 et seq. of the Commission’s Rules, 47 C.F.R. §§
1.401 et seq., that this Notice in WT Docket No. 12-69 IS ADOPTED.
69.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Petition for Rulemaking of the 700 MHz Block A
Good Faith Purchaser Alliance IS GRANTED to the extent described herein.


164 See 5 U.S.C. § 603. The RFA, see 5 U.S.C. § 601 et. seq., has been amended by the Small Business Regulatory
Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA), Pub. L. No. 104-121, Title II, 110 Stat. 857 (1996). The SBREFA
was enacted as Title II of the Contract With America Advancement Act of 1996 (CWAAA).
29

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

70.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the proceeding in RM-11592 IS HEREBY
TERMINATED.
71.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Commission’s Consumer & Governmental Affairs
Bureau, Reference Information Center, SHALL SEND a copy of this Notice, including the Initial
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business
Administration.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Marlene H. Dortch
Secretary
30

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

APPENDIX

Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

1.
As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, as amended (the RFA),1 the
Commission has prepared this Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) of the possible significant
economic impact of the policies and rules proposed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on a
substantial number of small entities. Written public comments are requested on the IRFA. Comments
must be identified as responses to the IRFA and must be filed by the deadline for comments on the
NPRM provided in the item. The Commission will send a copy of the NPRM, including this IRFA, to the
Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA).2 In addition, the NPRM and
IRFA (or summaries thereof) will be published in the Federal Register.3

A.

Need for, and Objectives of, the Proposed Rules

2.
Certain Lower 700 MHz A Block licensees have asserted that the development of two
distinct band classes within the Lower 700 MHz band has hampered their ability to have meaningful
access to a wide range of advanced devices. The Commission initiates this rulemaking proceeding to
promote interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band. The Commission states that the Communications
Act directs the Commission to, among other things, promote the widest possible deployment of
communications services, ensure the most efficient use of spectrum, and protect and promote vibrant
competition in the marketplace. In this NPRM, the Commission’s objective is to evaluate whether the
customers of Lower 700 MHz B and C Block licensees would experience harmful interference, and if so
to what degree, if the Lower 700 MHz were interoperable. Assuming that interoperability would cause
limited or no harmful interference to Lower 700 MHz B and C Block licensees or that such interference
can reasonably be mitigated through industry efforts and/or through modifications to the Commission’s
technical rules or other regulatory measures, the Commission asks whether there is likely to be a timely
industry solution to interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band, or whether additional regulatory
measures will be necessary to promote interoperability across the Lower 700 MHz band, such as requiring
Lower 700 MHz A, B, or C Block licensees, with respect to their networks operating in this spectrum, to
use only mobile user equipment that has the capability to operate across all of these paired commercial
700 MHz blocks.
3.
The Commission considers whether a requirement that mobile user equipment be capable
of operating on all paired commercial Lower 700 MHz spectrum could foster deployment of facilities-
based mobile broadband networks, particularly in rural and unserved areas. The Commission also
considers whether such a requirement would increase the likelihood that the Lower A Block licensees can
obtain the necessary financing to deploy networks and devices, particularly in smaller and regional areas.
The Commission considers the extent to which Lower A Block licensees have successfully negotiated
with equipment vendors, whether an interoperability requirement will enable the A Block licensees to
benefit from economies of scale with respect to mobile devices, and whether manufacturers require a
provider to purchase a minimum number of devices. The Commission considers whether interoperability
would promote reasonable roaming arrangements among 700 MHz providers and would increase the
number of providers that are technologically compatible for roaming partnership.


1 The RFA, see 5 U.S.C. §§ 601 – 612, has been amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness
Act of 1996 (“SBREFA”), Pub. L. No. 104-121, Title II, 110 Stat. 857 (1996).
2 See 5 U.S.C. § 603(a).
3 Id.
31

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

4.
With respect to the technical issues, the Commission states that the Commission must
ultimately resolve the central question as to whether a single band class would cause widespread harmful
interference to Lower 700 MHz B and C Block licensees, who would otherwise use Band Class 17
devices rather than Band Class 12. The Commission’s goal is to determine the extent of two primary
interference concerns for providers operating in the Lower 700 MHz B and C Blocks if these providers
substitute Band Class 12 for Band Class 17 in newly-offered devices: (1) reverse intermodulation
interference from adjacent DTV Channel 51 operations; and (2) blocking interference from neighboring
high-powered operations in the Lower 700 MHz E Block. The Commission considers and seeks
comment on the extent of the interference risk from adjacent Channel 51 and Lower Block E
transmissions for Band Class 12 devices operating in the Lower B and C Blocks, the effectiveness of
existing mitigation measures, and the extent of any innovative technical measures in the near future, or
that can be developed. The Commission also considers how licensees can continue to support its existing
grandfathered Band Class 17 devices and Band Class 12 devices.
5.
Through the NPRM, the Commission’s objective is to develop a record to determine
whether there are measures it should take to address Lower 700 MHz interference concerns that may be
preventing a voluntary adoption of Band Class 12 by Lower B and C Block licensees. For instance, the
Commission seeks comment on whether to modify its technical rules for Lower 700 MHz D and E Block
operations. In addition, the Commission considers steps to take to reduce the threat of potential
interference to balance the needs and rights of Channel 51 incumbents with Lower 700 MHz licensees.
6.
The Commission thinks that an industry solution to the question of interoperability in the
Lower 700 MHz band would be preferable to a regulatory approach because such a solution allows the
market greater flexibility in responding to evolving consumer needs and dynamic and fast-paced
technological developments. The Commission considers what would be a reasonable timeframe for a
voluntary migration to interoperability and how such timing may affect consumers and competition.
7.
However, the Commission recognizes that if the industry fails to move timely toward
interoperability once interference concerns are adequately addressed, by regulation or otherwise,
additional regulatory steps might be appropriate to further the public interest. If interference concerns are
reasonable addressed and the Commission is left with no other option to maximize innovation and
investment in the Lower 700 MHz band besides mandating mobile device interoperability, one approach
to achieve the Commission’s goals would be to require Lower 700 MHz A, B, or C Block licensees, with
respect to their networks operating in this spectrum, to use only mobile user equipment that has the
capability to operate across all of these blocks. For example, the Commission considers whether to
prohibit those licensees deploying LTE in the Lower 700 MHz band from offering mobile units that
operate on Band Class 17, which provides for operation on only the Lower 700 MHz B and C Blocks. In
order to facilitate the goal of a smooth transition to interoperable mobile equipment use in the Lower 700
MHz band, the Commission would propose a transition period of no longer than two years after the
effective date of an interoperability requirement. The Commission also would propose to grandfather the
use of devices already in use by consumers as of the transition deadline, so that consumers using existing
Band Class 17 equipment would not be adversely affected.

B.

Legal Basis

8.
The authority for the actions taken in this Notice is contained in Sections 1, 2, 4(i), 4(j),
301, 302(a), 303(b), 303(e), 303(f), 303(g), 303(r), 304, 307(a), 309(j)(3), and 316(a)(1) of the
Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 151, 152, 154(i), 154(j), 301, 302a(a), 303(b),
303(e), 303(f), 303(g), 303(r), 304, 307(a), 309(j)(3), and 316(a)(1), and Sections 1.401 et seq. of the
Commission’s Rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.401 et seq.

C.

Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which the Proposed
Rules Will Apply

32

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

9.
The RFA directs agencies to provide a description of, and, where feasible, an estimate of,
the number of small entities that may be affected by the proposed rules, if adopted. The RFA generally
defines the term “small entity” as having the same meaning as the terms “small business,” “small
organization,” and “small governmental jurisdiction.”4 In addition, the term “small business” has the
same meaning as the term “small business concern” under the Small Business Act.5 A “small business
concern” is one which: (1) is independently owned and operated; (2) is not dominant in its field of
operation; and (3) satisfies any additional criteria established by the Small Business Administration
(SBA).6
10.
In the following paragraphs, the Commission further describes and estimates the number
of small entity licensees that may be affected by an interoperability rule. Implementing a mobile user
equipment interoperability requirement in the Lower 700 MHz band affects 700 MHz spectrum licensees.
11.
This IRFA analyzes the number of small entities affected on a service-by-service basis.
When identifying small entities that could be affected by the Commission’s new rules, this IRFA provides
information that describes auction results, including the number of small entities that were winning
bidders. However, the number of winning bidders that qualify as small businesses at the close of an
auction does not necessarily reflect the total number of small entities currently in a particular service. The
Commission does not generally require that licensees later provide business size information, except in
the context of an assignment or a transfer of control application that involves unjust enrichment issues.
12.
Wireless Telecommunications Carrier (except satellite). The appropriate size standard
under SBA rules is for the category Wireless Telecommunications Carriers. The size standard for that
category is that a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees.7 Census Bureau data for 2007,
which now supersede data from the 2002 Census, show that there were 3,188 firms in this category that
operated for the entire year. Of this total, 3,144 had employment of 999 or fewer, and 44 firms had had
employment of 1,000 employees or more. Thus under this category and the associated small business size
standard, the Commission estimates that the majority of wireless telecommunications carriers (except
satellite) are small entities that may be affected by our proposed action.8
13.
Upper 700 MHz Band Licensees. In the 700 MHz Second Report and Order, the
Commission revised its rules regarding Upper 700 MHz licenses.9 On January 24, 2008, the Commission


4 5 U.S.C. § 601(6).
5 5 U.S.C. § 601(3) (incorporating by reference the definition of “small-business concern” in the Small Business
Act, 15 U.S.C. § 632). Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 601(3), the statutory definition of a small business applies “unless an
agency, after consultation with the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration and after opportunity
for public comment, establishes one or more definitions of such term which are appropriate to the activities of the
agency and publishes such definition(s) in the Federal Register.”
6 15 U.S.C. § 632.
7 13 C.F.R. § 121.201, NAICS code 517110.
8See http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/IBQTable?_bm=y&-fds_name=EC0700A1&-geo_id=&-_skip=600&;-
ds_name=EC0751SSSZ5&-_lang=en
9 Service Rules for the 698-746, 747-762 and 777-792 MHz Band, WT Docket No. 06-150, Revision of the
Commission’s Rules to Ensure Compatibility with Enhanced 911 Emergency Calling Systems, CC Docket No. 94-
102, Section 68.4(a) of the Commission’s Rules Governing Hearing Aid-Compatible Telephone, WT Docket No.
01-309, Biennial Regulatory Review – Amendment of Parts 1, 22, 24, 27, and 90 to Streamline and Harmonize
Various Rules Affecting Wireless Radio Services, WT Docket No. 03-264, Former Nextel Communications, Inc.
Upper 700 MHz Guard Band Licenses and Revisions to Part 27 of the Commission’s Rules, WT Docket No. 06-169,
(continued….)
33

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

commenced Auction 73 in which several licenses in the Upper 700 MHz band were available for
licensing: 12 Regional Economic Area Grouping licenses in the C Block, and one nationwide license in
the D Block.10 The auction concluded on March 18, 2008, with 3 winning bidders claiming very small
business status (those with attributable average annual gross revenues that do not exceed $15 million for
the preceding three years) and winning five licenses.
14.
Lower 700 MHz Band Licensees. The Commission previously adopted criteria for
defining three groups of small businesses for purposes of determining their eligibility for special
provisions such as bidding credits.11 The Commission defined a “small business” as an entity that,
together with its affiliates and controlling principals, has average gross revenues not exceeding $40
million for the preceding three years.12 A “very small business” is defined as an entity that, together with
its affiliates and controlling principals, has average gross revenues that are not more than $15 million for
the preceding three years.13 Additionally, the lower 700 MHz Service had a third category of small
business status for Metropolitan/Rural Service Area (MSA/RSA) licenses—“entrepreneur”—which is
defined as an entity that, together with its affiliates and controlling principals, has average gross revenues
that are not more than $3 million for the preceding three years.14 The SBA approved these small size
standards.15 An auction of 740 licenses (one license in each of the 734 MSAs/RSAs and one license in
each of the six Economic Area Groupings (EAGs)) was conducted in 2002. Of the 740 licenses available
for auction, 484 licenses were won by 102 winning bidders. Seventy-two of the winning bidders claimed
small business, very small business or entrepreneur status and won licenses.16 A second auction
commenced on May 28, 2003, closed on June 13, 2003, and included 256 licenses.17 Seventeen winning
bidders claimed small or very small business status, and nine winning bidders claimed entrepreneur
status.18 In 2005, the Commission completed an auction of 5 licenses in the Lower 700 MHz band. All
three winning bidders claimed small business status.
15.
In 2007, the Commission reexamined its rules governing the 700 MHz band in the 700
MHz Second Report and Order.19 An auction of A, B and E Block 700 MHz licenses was held in 2008.20
(Continued from previous page)


Implementing a Nationwide, Broadband Interoperable Public Safety Network in the 700 MHz Band, PS Docket No.
06-229, Development of Operational, Technical and Spectrum Requirements for Meeting Federal, State, and Local
Public Safety Communications Requirements Through the Year 2010, WT Docket No. 96-86, Declaratory Ruling on
Reporting Requirement Under Commission’s Part 1 Anti-Collusion Rule, WT Docket No. 07-166, Second Report
and Order
, 22 FCC Rcd 15289 (2007) (700 MHz Second Report and Order).
10 See Auction of 700 MHz Band Licenses Closes, Public Notice, 23 FCC Rcd 4572 (WTB 2008).
11 See Reallocation and Service Rules for the 698-746 MHz Spectrum Band (Television Channels 52-59), Report
and Order
, 17 FCC Rcd 1022 (2002).
12 See id., 17 FCC Rcd at 1087-88 ¶ 172.
13 See id.
14 See id., 17 FCC Rcd at 1088 ¶ 173.
15 See Letter from Aida Alvarez, Administrator, SBA, to Thomas Sugrue, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications
Bureau, FCC (Aug. 10, 1999).
16 See Lower 700 MHz Band Auction Closes, Public Notice, 17 FCC Rcd 17272 (2002).
17 See Lower 700 MHz Band Auction Closes, Public Notice, 18 FCC Rcd 11873 (2003).
18 See id.
19 700 MHz Second Report and Order, 22 FCC Rcd at 15359 n.434.
34

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

Twenty winning bidders claimed small business status (those with attributable average annual gross
revenues that exceed $15 million and do not exceed $40 million for the preceding three years). Thirty
three winning bidders claimed very small business status (those with attributable average annual gross
revenues that do not exceed $15 million for the preceding three years).
16.
Radio and Television Broadcasting and Wireless Communications Equipment
Manufacturing. The Census Bureau defines this category as follows: “This industry comprises
establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing radio and television broadcast and wireless
communications equipment. Examples of products made by these establishments are: transmitting and
receiving antennas, cable television equipment, GPS equipment, pagers, cellular phones, mobile
communications equipment, and radio and television studio and broadcasting equipment.”21 The SBA has
developed a small business size standard for Radio and Television Broadcasting and Wireless
Communications Equipment Manufacturing, which is: all such firms having 750 or fewer employees.
According to Census Bureau data for 2007, there were a total of 939 establishments in this category that
operated for part or all of the entire year. According to Census bureau data for 2007, there were a total of
919 firms in this category that operated for the entire year. Of this total, 771 had less than 100 employees
and 148 had more than 100 employees.22 Thus, under that size standard, the majority of firms can be
considered small.

D.

Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance
Requirements for Small Entities

17.
This NPRM proposes no new reporting or recording keeping requirements.

E.

Steps Taken to Minimize Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities and
Significant Alternatives Considered

18.
The RFA requires an agency to describe any significant alternatives that it has considered
in developing its approach, which may include the following four alternatives (among others): (1) the
establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the
resources available to small entities; (2) the clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance or
reporting requirements under the rule for small entities; (3) the use of performance, rather than design,
standards; and (4) an exemption from coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for small entities.23
19.
As an alternative to a regulatory approach, the Commission considers the impact of a
timely voluntary industry solution to interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz band. The Commission
considers how this alternative approach may affect consumers and competition. The Commission seeks
comment on the economic impact of this approach on licensees, including small entities. In addition, the
Commission seeks comment on other alternative approaches to interoperability in the Lower 700 MHz
band that would reduce or eliminate economic adversity on licensees, including small entities.
20.
Whether the Commission implements an interoperability requirement, or an industry
(Continued from previous page)


20 See Auction of 700 MHz Band Licenses Closes, Public Notice, 23 FCC Rcd 4572 (2008).
21 The NAICS Code for this service is 334220. See 13 C.F.R 121.201. See also
http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/IBQTable?_bm=y&-fds_name=EC0700A1&-geo_id=&-_skip=300&;-
ds_name=EC0731SG2&-_lang=en
22 See http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/IBQTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=&-fds_name=EC0700A1&-_skip=4500&;-
ds_name=EC0731SG3&-_lang=en
23 See 5 U.S.C. § 603(c).
35

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

solution, it seeks comment on the relevant costs and benefits on small entities. The Commission
considers the potential benefits to consumers, innovation, and investment. In addition, it considers the
revenue implications, cost savings, or adverse economic impact of an interoperability rule or an industry-
based solution for Lower 700 MHz providers and device manufacturers.

F.

Federal Rules that May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict with the Proposed Rules

21.
None.
36

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

STATEMENT OF

CHAIRMAN JULIUS GENACHOWSKI

Re:
Promoting Interoperability in the 700 MHz Commercial Spectrum, WT Docket No. 12-69;
Interoperability of Mobile User Equipment Across Paired Commercial Spectrum Blocks in the
700 MHz Band, RM-11592

Since the completion of the 700 MHz auction in 2008, we have seen the emergence of two non-
interoperable band classes for devices. This was an unanticipated development, and it is having
consequences that raise real concerns.
We have heard from providers in one of the bands – the A band – that the lack of interoperability
is making it difficult to obtain mobile broadband devices. That difficulty, they have said, is slowing
mobile broadband roll-outs and buildouts, and making it harder for those providers to compete. And so
this issue affects central FCC goals.
To help facilitate solutions to the interoperability challenges, we have over the past months
increased the agency’s engagement with 3GPP -- the principal mobile broadband standards setting body.
To continue this work and to help drive toward a solution, today we initiate a proceeding on
interoperability. A key issue will be interference -- whether a unified band class would result in harmful
interference to Lower 700 MHz B and C Block licensees, and whether, if interference exists, it reasonably
can be mitigated.
I hope and expect that industry will take the lead in developing an interoperability solution to
allow for additional deployment of mobile broadband networks and increase the choice of providers
available to consumers. An industry-led solution would be the preferable solution, and multiple
stakeholders have indicated that a unified band class can be win-win if interference concerns are
addressed. Of course, we are launching this proceeding because no solution has been reached yet and we
will be closely monitoring progress in addition to developing a record as part of this proceeding.
I’d like to thank Commissioner Clyburn for her strong work to bring this issue to the fore, and
Commissioner McDowell for his constructive input that is reflected in the Notice.
I want to thank the FCC staff for their work on this item.
37

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

STATEMENT OF

COMMISSIONER ROBERT M. MCDOWELL

Re:
Promoting Interoperability in the 700 MHz Commercial Spectrum, WT Docket No. 12-69;
Interoperability of Mobile User Equipment Across Paired Commercial Spectrum Blocks in the
700 MHz Band, RM-11592

I am voting to approve today’s notice of proposed rulemaking regarding interoperable
communications in the lower 700 MHz band. I thank all of the interested parties for sharing their insights
and marketplace experiences on this topic. And, I am grateful to the Chairman for his willingness to
accept edits to create a more dispassionate examination and thereby allow for more analytical comment.

Although I support today’s action, I hope that all interested parties will come to the negotiating
table and work in good faith to develop their own solution. Government mandates should be a last resort.
That maxim is especially relevant here because minimal regulation in the wireless sector has created an
environment that has maximized opportunities for investment, innovation, competition and job creation.
Before disrupting this fruitful environment with new government mandates, all stakeholders, including
industry and consumers, should work as hard as they can to produce a private sector solution. An
independently created interoperability framework stands a far better chance of success than would a top-
down government regulation. In other words, the private sector is better at this than we are. In fact, we
might not be here today were it not for earlier mandates handed down in July of 2007 from which I
dissented.

Finally, in this case, I support our decision to refrain from including draft rules at this time.
Putting forth proposed rules at this delicate stage may only distort the private sector’s creative process.
With this in mind, many of our questions are open-ended to elicit greater insight regarding the costs and
technical feasibility of potential implementation. Accordingly, I approve of this prudent approach to
develop the record further before drafting proposed rules.
As always, I thank our Wireless Telecommunications Bureau team for your work in this area.
38

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

STATEMENT OF

COMMISSIONER MIGNON L. CLYBURN

Re:
Promoting Interoperability in the 700 MHz Commercial Spectrum, WT Docket No. 12-69;
Interoperability of Mobile User Equipment Across Paired Commercial Spectrum Blocks in the
700 MHz Band, RM-11592

Last month, Congress received much deserved praise for passing legislation that gives the
Commission authority to conduct voluntary incentive auctions. If finding new ways to repurpose
spectrum for commercial mobile broadband services is a national priority, then removing a barrier to
productive use of perhaps the most valuable spectrum the Commission has ever repurposed, should be
just as important. I am grateful to Chairman Genachowski for releasing this NPRM this quarter. Amy
Levine, Rick Kaplan, and Tom Peters deserve special mention for leading the staff to prepare an NPRM
that shows us a path towards resolving this interoperability issue. But, the industry and the Commission
owe American consumers much more. They deserve resolution of the issues and an interoperable lower
700 MHz band as quickly as possible.
We have owed the American public the competition and innovation in mobile broadband services
that the 700 MHz band promises, since at least 2006, when the Commission initiated the proceeding to
adopt service rules for the band. That proceeding was widely and closely followed not just by
communications licensees and the lawyers that frequently lobby the Commission.
It also drew rapt attention from application developers, other technology innovators, and
members of the public who do not often follow our proceedings. More than 250,000 different entities
filed comments. Why? Because of the excellent propagation characteristics of the 700 MHz band.
The technological potential of this spectrum band is so great that the Commission tried to
anticipate the impact that the acquisition of licenses for the band could have on competition throughout
the mobile wireless ecosystem. The Commission found that wireless service providers had been requiring
mobile device manufacturers to block consumer access to certain services such as Wi-Fi technology. Wi-
Fi can improve the consumer experience by reducing network congestion and providing faster data
throughput rates. Therefore, the Commission determined that the practice of blocking access to Wi-Fi
was unrelated to reasonable network management, or technological necessity, and was an improper
barrier to consumer choice. Accordingly, the Commission imposed an open access condition on the
Upper C Block of the 700 MHz Band to encourage additional innovation and consumer choice at a
critical stage in the evolution of wireless broadband services.
Unfortunately, the Commission did not foresee another way that the 700 MHz band could be used
to harm consumer access to services. It did not anticipate there would be a standard setting process,
which would divide the lower 700 MHz band, and would impede the ability of devices for A Block
licenses to work on B Block and C Block networks. This lack of interoperability means fewer device and
service choices for consumers. Fewer competitive options result in higher prices.
The Commission’s failure to anticipate the lack of interoperability was perhaps excusable, in
2007, when it adopted the service rules for the 700 MHz band. That is because, as this NPRM explains,
since the early 1980’s, the Commission has sent strong messages that it expects wireless service licensees
to offer consumers equipment that was capable of operating over the entire range of an allocated spectrum
band. As the Commission stated, such interoperability, would “insure full coverage in all markets and
compatibility on a nationwide basis.”
39

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 12-31

In any event, the Commission’s failure to anticipate this particular anticompetitive development
means the Commission needs to move as quickly as possible to achieve true interoperability, in the lower
700 MHz band. I understand the interest in giving the industry some time to arrive at a voluntary
solution. I agree that, generally speaking, such an approach can offer a market greater flexibility to
respond to evolving consumer needs and fast-paced technological developments. But, the industry has
already had more than four years to find a solution. This industry knows how to arrive at interoperability.
In fact, as I alluded to before, until the splintering of the lower 700 MHz band occurred, the entire mobile
wireless industry had been operating with the understanding that this Commission expects interoperability
within all spectrum bands.
Therefore, the staff should not only carefully, but expeditiously, consider and resolve the claims
about interference from Channel 51 licensees and from high power operations in the lower E Block. The
staff should also be vigilant, in monitoring the industry effort, to find a voluntary solution. This NPRM
provides sufficient notice about the rules the Commission might adopt if the industry does not achieve
true interoperability across the lower 700 MHz band. At a minimum, those are the goals the voluntary
solution should achieve. We need to quickly arrive at an appropriate method to measure the progress of
those efforts. If sufficient progress is not being made, we should not hesitate to adopt these proposed
rules. I look forward to an industry solution, or the adoption of rules, by the end of this calendar year.
40

Note: We are currently transitioning our documents into web compatible formats for easier reading. We have done our best to supply this content to you in a presentable form, but there may be some formatting issues while we improve the technology. The original version of the document is available as a PDF, Word Document, or as plain text.

close
FCC

You are leaving the FCC website

You are about to leave the FCC website and visit a third-party, non-governmental website that the FCC does not maintain or control. The FCC does not endorse any product or service, and is not responsible for, nor can it guarantee the validity or timeliness of the content on the page you are about to visit. Additionally, the privacy policies of this third-party page may differ from those of the FCC.