September 26, 2014 - 11:00 am
By Tom Wheeler | FCC Chairman

Last weekend’s record-setting launch of the new iPhone is just the latest reminder that our appetite for new mobile technologies appears to be insatiable. And this continuous cycle of mobile innovation is not only delighting U.S. consumers, it’s a major force in driving economic growth, boosting U.S. competitiveness, and enabling solutions to challenges like education and health care.

Seizing the opportunities of mobile innovation is one of the FCC’s highest priorities. Our mobile agenda rests on three pillars: making more spectrum available for broadband; using the market and technology to ensure more efficient and effective use of our spectrum; and promoting the deployment of mobile infrastructure. Today, I’m circulating to my colleagues a series of proposals that would advance each of these goals.

High-speed mobile broadband requires high-speed broadband buildout. However, the regulatory burdens associated with deployments can be expensive and time-consuming. We have to fix that.

For that reason, I circulated an item today that takes concrete steps to immediately and substantially ease the burdens associated with deploying wireless equipment.

The draft order recognizes that a technological revolution with regard to infrastructure deployment has changed the landscape. New Distributed Antenna System (DAS) networks and other small-cell systems use components that are a fraction of the size of traditional macrocells and can be installed – unobtrusively – on utility poles, buildings, and other existing structures.

The draft order accounts for that change by crafting a far more efficient process for small deployments that do not trigger concerns about environmental protection or historic preservation.

The Order also implements federal statutory directives that are intended to make State and local review more efficient for wireless deployments and modifications that are highly unlikely to affect local communities. At the same time, it preserves our commitment to safeguarding the essential roles that State, local, and Tribal governments play in this process.

Sustaining the mobile revolution also depends on our invisible infrastructure – spectrum. The fact that there is no low-hanging fruit in our spectrum inventory that can easily be repurposed for broadband means that the Commission needs to think creatively about how to make more spectrum available and increase the efficiency of its use.

Historically, mobile wireless services have been targeted at bands below 3 GHz due to technological and practical limitations. However, there have been significant developments in antenna and processing technologies that may allow the use of higher frequencies – in this case those above 24 GHz – for mobile applications.

Acting on a recommendation of the Commission’s Technological Advisory Council, I am circulating to my fellow commissioners a Notice of Inquiry that seeks to broaden the Commission’s understanding of the state of the art in technological developments that will enable the use of millimeter wave spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile wireless services.

Early studies show that these new technologies – what some are calling “5G” – can ultimately facilitate a throughput of up to 10 Gigabits/second, a speed that is orders of magnitude greater than that available today. Our effort here is to learn about the technology and ensure a regulatory environment where these technologies can flourish.

Perhaps the most notable spectrum innovation being advanced by the Commission is the world’s first voluntary incentive auction, which will use market forces to repurpose spectrum in the TV band so that the spectrum can be used by wireless providers.

Today, I shared two proposals related to this historic auction. The first is a draft Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address aggregate broadcaster-to-broadcaster interference during repacking, and also settle the methodology for predicting interference between broadcast and wireless operations in the same or adjacent channels in nearby markets during and following the auction.

In the second item, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking relating to LPTV stations and TV translators, we explore various actions the Commission can take to mitigate the potential impact of the incentive auction and the repacking process on these stations. LPTV and TV translator stations provide diverse and local programming for viewers, especially in rural and remote locations, and we intend to do what we can to promote their continued viability.

The wireless ecosystem is incredibly dynamic; constantly creating new and innovative services and applications for consumers and businesses. I look forward to working with my colleagues on these items to help build on our mobile momentum.

Finally, and importantly, seizing the opportunities of innovation does not mean that the responsibilities that come with providing communications services can be left aside. To that end, we’ll be hearing a presentation at next month’s open meeting from the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau regarding its inquiry into one of the most extensive 911 outages to date. This past April, for about six hours, more than 11 million consumers throughout Washington state and portions of 6 other states from California to Florida lacked the ability to make 911 calls. The outage was not caused by a storm or disaster. Nor was there a failure of the local provider’s network. Rather, the outage was traced to a technical problem in a third-party vendor’s equipment.

Innovative IP-based technologies hold the potential to vastly improve emergency calling and response. And IP transport can provide great resiliency. But we need a better understanding of the risks involved, and how to mitigate them to ensure that reliable access to 911 is preserved. Bureau staff will present its findings and lessons learned to help prevent such outages from occurring in the future.