PDV, EWA Ask FCC to Realign 900 MHz Band for Broadband Operations
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 | Comments

By Sandra Wendelken
Morgan O’Brien’s Pacific DataVision (PDV) and the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) moved forward with a petition asking the FCC to realign the 900 MHz band to allow Long Term Evolution (LTE) operations without two other critical infrastructure associations that had originally voiced limited support for the request.

In September, PDV acquired all of Sprint’s 900 MHz spectrum licenses — about 6 megahertz nationwide. O’Brien said in September that PDV will use the spectrum to launch a nationwide push-to-talk (PTT) network in initial markets by first quarter 2015.

The petition asks the FCC to reconfigure the 10 megahertz of the 896 – 901 MHz paired with 935 – 940 MHz to allow a 3-megahertz contiguous block for private enterprise broadband (PEBB). The remaining 2 megahertz of spectrum could be used for narrowband PTT services by the band’s many critical infrastructure industry (CII) users.

In the petition for rulemaking, PDV offers to facilitate the realignment by exchanging its 900 MHz licenses with those of incumbents that prefer to continue operating narrowband systems. PDV and EWA propose that broadband licenses issued to PDV and others would be conditioned by the FCC with the obligation to grant priority access to CII entities, subject to negotiation of terms and conditions of the parties.

“We recognize there is a long road ahead as the industry works through the complex, but manageable," said PDV Vice Chairman Morgan O’Brien. “It has become increasingly difficult for the FCC to identify greenfield spectrum to meet important new requirements of its enterprise constituents. Realignments and repurposing allocations are today’s only practical way of addressing these needs.”

Once the frequencies have been confirmed as satisfying the comparable facilities standard, the licensee will negotiate a realignment agreement with the PEBB, in most cases PDV, which holds the most SMR major trading area (MTA) licenses in virtually every MTA in the country, the petition said.

The proposal also says PDV is expected to pay for expenses associated with the realignment, as is typical for reconfiguration processes. The petition suggests that the FCC use the approach adopted for the upper 200 800 MHz channel relocation.

The 27-page petition recommends that EWA manage and develop the initial frequency recommendation process. EWA would identify the alternative frequencies for use by licensees moving from the PEBB allocation.

“EWA members that will continue operating 900 MHz narrowband systems are satisfied that the petition offers a balanced approach for addressing both traditional and advanced communications, needs,” said Mark Crosby, EWA president and CEO. “Our members with broadband coverage, reliability, security and operating requirements not currently fulfilled on commercial networks have endorsed the petition.”

The petition also urged the FCC to be prepared to reinstitute a freeze on 900 MHz business/industry land transportation (B/ILT) band licensing.

The Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) also represent 900 MHz narrowband incumbents. O’Brien said in September that PDV officials were in negotiations with the two groups to be part of the petition. However, neither association is a filer.

“We are still in discussions,” said Brett Kilbourne, vice president of government and industry affairs for UTC. “We have members on both sides of the situation.”

He said some members have concerns about how the network will be deployed and other details. “There are still some issues to be worked out and until that time, we just couldn’t file a petition at this time,” he said.

API members have discussed the proposal and are interested in the benefits that the 900 MHz rebanding proposal will bring in terms of licensed broadband spectrum access for the oil and natural gas industry. However, API is not yet able to fully support the proposal because of several technical, operational, rebanding and cost details that remain unclear to several of its membership, said an API spokesman.

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