The FCC's Wild West: Allocating Spectrum Above 24 GHz for Mobile Broadband Services

Today’s wireless mobile broadband networks largely operate on spectrum below 3 GHz, but engineers and policymakers are actively looking to higher frequency bands for the development of next-generation “5G” platforms.  As U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler noted, these technologies “could theoretically dramatically increase wireless broadband speeds and throughput – up to 10 gigabits per second.”   

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FCC Issues Enforcement Advisory Against Wi-Fi Blocking

On January 27, 2015, the Chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau released an Enforcement Advisory indicating that the Bureau would continue to enforce prohibitions on wireless jamming equipment set out in Section 333 of the Communications Act against hotels, convention centers, and other commercial establishments (or the network operators serving any of these types of establishments) if they intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots.  The Enforcement Bureau’s advisory indicated that it would enforce this prohibition against Wi-Fi blocking “including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner’s Wi-Fi network” but did not limit the potential for enforcement action solely to Wi-Fi blocking performed for that purpose.  In a related statement, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler noted that the Communications Act prohibited willfully interfering with authorized radio communications, including interfering with Wi-Fi signals. 

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U.S. FCC Issues Notice of Violation to Nike for Corporate Wireless System

By AJ Burton and Deborah Wei

In the latest example of increased U.S. Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") enforcement activity, the agency’s Enforcement Bureau has issued a Notice of Violation to Nike Inc., for interference caused by a defective UHF amplifier card in Nike’s corporate Distributed Antenna System (“DAS”) network.  The Notice is an important reminder for all companies that operate wireless equipment to keep a close watch on FCC compliance and enforcement developments.

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House Republicans Preview 2015 Telecom Agenda: Reform the FCC and Increase Spectrum

With both houses of Congress coming under Republican leadership, it appears increasingly likely that reform of at least some of the laws governing the telecommunications sector could take place in 2015.  Republicans on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently offered a preview of their telecom agenda with the release of a Compilation of Policy Proposals.  The House policy document proposes two key telecom agenda items for future legislative action: reforming the procedures governing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and increasing commercial access to government-controlled spectrum.  While it is too early to know whether these proposed legislative changes will be adopted, they could significantly alter the FCC’s rulemaking processes and increase the number of wireless spectrum auctions in years to come.  

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U.S. FCC AWS-3 Auction Revenue Surpasses $16 Billion

After four days and fifteen rounds of bidding, bidding for paired spectrum in the U.S. Federal Communications Commission AWS-3 spectrum auction (Auction 97) remained very strong today.  Total revenue accelerated past its $10+ billion reserve price this morning and closed the day in excess of $16 billion.  The current revenue level ensures that Auction 97 will fully cover the remaining funds for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), even assuming the most expensive possible costs for clearing the band and the largest possible discounts for Designated Entities.   The robust revenues should silence critics, who had claimed that FirstNet funding goals would not be met, and will reduce revenue requirements for the upcoming 600 MHz Incentive Auction.  Although bidding for the paired blocks appears to be extremely competitive, bidding for the 15 MHz of unpaired uplink spectrum remains well short of the reserve price.  Bids are increasing for the unpaired blocks, but only slowly.

Auction 97 includes 65 MHz of spectrum that is adjacent to the current AWS-1 band, a band currently used by T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and other wireless operators, primarily for LTE broadband data services.  Large amounts of contiguous spectrum are especially valuable for LTE deployments, for which the maximum channel size is 20 MHz.  The additional paired band of 25+25 MHz from 1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHz available in the AWS-3 auction effectively extends the AWS-1 band to a total of 70+70 MHz contiguous paired spectrum.  Meanwhile, the 15 MHz of unpaired uplink spectrum from 1695-1710 MHz extends the AWS-1 uplink and provides a possible pairing for unpaired downlink spectrum.  The paired spectrum is divided into three blocks of 5+5 MHz each (the G, H and I blocks) and one block of 10+10 MHz (the J block).   The unpaired spectrum is divided into two blocks:  A1, which is 5 MHz, and B1, which is 10 MHz.  For licensing purposes, all blocks are geographically divided into 176 Basic Economic Area (BEA) except the G block, which is divided into 734 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs).


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Winnik International Telecoms & Internet Forum

Please join us for the third annual Winnik International Telecoms & Internet Forum, which will be held on 22 October 2014 at Hogan Lovells’ Washington, D.C. office. This forum brings together professionals from around the world for an afternoon of high-level discussion on current topics in international telecoms, media, and the Internet landscape. Please register using the link on the right.Hogan Lovells is hosting this forum in honor of our former partner Joel Winnik, who practiced international telecom law until his passing in 2012.


12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. Lunch and keynote address by Maureen Ohlhausen, Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission  

1:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Panel discussions on hot topics including:

  • Spectrum Policy — Emerging Issues in Mobile Broadband and Wireless Services
  • Privacy, Cybersecurity, and Law Enforcement Access Issues for Connected Devices
  • Connected in Mobile Health
  • Internet of Things — Who Owns the Customer?
Guest panelists include:
  • Roger Sherman, Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
  • Dean Brenner, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, Qualcomm
  • Michael Brown, Vice President of Security Product Management and Research, BlackBerry
  • Charlie Giordano, Chief Technology Officer for GE Healthcare Life Care
  • Kathleen Ham,  Vice President of Federal Regulatory Affairs, T-Mobile
  • David Jeppsen, Vice President of Business Development and Public Affairs, NTT DoCoMo USA
  • Julie Kearney, Vice President, Consumer Electronics Association
  • Danielle Kriz, Director of Global Cybersecurity Policy, Information Technology Industry Council
  • Harry Lightsey, Executive Director, Global Connected Consumer,General Motors
  • Jules Polonetsky, Executive Director & Co-Chair, Future of Privacy Forum
  • Tom Schaffnit, President, VII Consortium/Consultant to Honda
  Cocktail reception — 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.        

Register for the Forum  

Date 22 October 2014  

Time 12:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  

Click here for calendar appointment  

Venue Hogan Lovells Fulbright Center - 13th Floor Columbia Square 555 13th Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20004  

Click here for map  

CLE certification This program is pending approval for CLE credit in New York, Virginia, and California. For all other jurisdictions, attendees will receive a Uniform Certificate of Attendance.  

Note to NY attorneys This program is appropriate for both newly admitted and experienced attorneys. 

Contact For more information, please contact Hogan Lovells' D.C. Marketing Team.  


Next Steps in the FCC's Incentive Auction: A Preview of the Seven Near-Term Releases

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) is deep in the midst of planning the world’s first broadcast incentive auction, currently slated for mid-2015.  The auction will give over-the-air television broadcasters an opportunity to sell their valuable spectrum rights in a reverse auction process, and the FCC will then repackage this cleared spectrum and auction it to broadband wireless companies, enabling them to better meet consumer’s exploding demand for wireless data.  The Commission issued initial rules for the auction in its Report and Order in May of this year, but its work is far from over.

In the coming weeks, the FCC has seven different items scheduled for adoption that will further affect the mechanics of the Incentive Auction, and some of these items implicate key policy decisions, including, for example, any minimum price the Commission will set for the spectrum it sells.  The FCC has previously released a summary of these follow-on items, as well as a timeline for their release, targeting third quarter of 2014.  With the third quarter of 2014 coming to a close this month and with only three of the follow-on Incentive Auction items scheduled for a vote at the upcoming September 30th Open Meeting, below is an update regarding all seven of these items based on the further details that have emerged since the Commission’s last official releases earlier this summer.

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National Health IT Week at the FCC

This week the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) CONNECT2HEALTHFCC Task Force, a group formed in March 2014 that is focused on using broadband deployment to accelerate the adoption of advanced healthcare technologies, is joining more than 400 other public and private organizations in recognizing National Health IT Week (NHIT week).  NHIT week is a series of events and activities aimed at increasing awareness of the ability of information technology (IT) to advance healthcare services.  For example, health IT, or electronic health records, can improve healthcare by increasing patient safety, decreasing medical errors, and facilitating better communication between patients and their healthcare providers.  The themes for this year’s NHIT week include patient engagement, advancing interoperability, and clinical quality and safety.

NHIT week began September 15 with the Annual Consumer Health IT Summit hosted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.  FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn delivered the keynote address at the Summit and will also present at the First Annual National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved Conference on Tuesday, September 16.  The Conference will focus on strategies for using Health IT to eliminate disparities in healthcare and ensure that all patients have and use the tools available to maintain their health and well-being.  Additional NHIT week events include a webinar on new electronic health record certification criteria and a webinar on using health IT to improve the safety of healthcare.

The author wishes to thank Leigh Gusky, an Associate in our Washington, D.C. office, for her assistance in preparing this article.

Federal Communications Commission Rewrites E-Rate Rules for Technology Support for Schools

By Ari Fitzgerald and Deborah K. Broderson

On July 11, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted a long-awaited order revising the rules governing E-rate, the federal government’s largest education technology program with an annual budget of $2.4 billion. Schools and libraries eligible for E-rate support should review the final FCC Order, which has not yet been released, closely to see how changes to this program will affect their technology budgets in the future.  

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Incentive Auction and Mobile Spectrum Holdings Report and Orders - Responses from Industry and the Public

As discussed in our post earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission yesterday adopted long-awaited rules governing the 600 MHz incentive auction and spectrum-aggregation proceedings.  Interested parties throughout the wireless industry, including wireless carriers, industry associations, and public interest groups, issued statements regarding their thoughts about the new rules.  We’ve assembled many of those statements here so you wouldn’t have to.

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Federal Communications Commission Adopts Incentive Auction and Mobile Spectrum Holdings Report and Orders

After eighteen-months of deliberation, the Federal Communications Commission yesterday adopted rules governing the 600 MHz incentive auction and spectrum-aggregation proceedings.  These hard-fought orders, which the Democrat-controlled FCC adopted over vigorous dissents from the two Republican Commissioners, Ajit Pai and Michael O’Reilly, provide a solid foundation for at least one competitive carrier to acquire low-band spectrum in the upcoming incentive auction without the risk of the largest two carriers shutting the smaller carriers out of the bidding in key markets.  The rules also helpfully modify the FCC’s “spectrum screen” to apply additional regulatory scrutiny to future transactions involving below 1 GHz spectrum.

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Broadcast Incentive Auction Update: Rules of the Road Coming Soon

By Michele FarquharPraveen Goyal, and Deborah Broderson

The FCC is expected to vote on rules governing the broadcast incentive auction during its May 15 open meeting.  Although the Report and Order outlining the rules is still being circulated internally among FCC leadership and has not been released to the public, the FCC has not been shy about telegraphing the direction the final rules might take, including broadcaster-related provisions.

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LTE-Unlicensed - The New WiFi?

By Tom Peters

Over the past few months, a debate has been quietly raging in the international standards group 3GPP over the possibility of using the 4G wireless technology LTE in unlicensed spectrum.  LTE is the de facto standard for 4G in licensed spectrum – the latest iPhones and Android devices support it on every major US operator’s network - and WiFi is the wireless standard used over unlicensed spectrum in homes, local businesses and public “hot spots” – it is built into every computer, tablet and smartphone out there.  So the possibility of expanding LTE into unlicensed spectrum where the WiFi standard is ubiquitous and dominant brings several questions to mind:  “What’s wrong with the current arrangement?”, “Why does LTE want to infringe on WiFi’s territory?” and “How could this affect me in the future?”  

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A Shared Vision for Spectrum

By Trey Hanbury and Wes Platt

Earlier this month, the U.K. took a small but significant step towards a future in which spectrum is shared rather than reserved for a particular use.  The U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media, and Sport (“DCMS”) released its 2014 Spectrum Strategy, which committed to “a gradual move” from exclusive to shared use of spectrum, in line with the European Commission's promotion of spectrum sharing. As unencumbered airwaves become a thing of the past, “sharing will be crucial,” it said.  “Technical and regulatory innovations to enable such sharing must be prioritized.” 

DCMS anticipates that the benefits of such a shift will be enormous.  In particular, DCMS predicts that such an approach can help double spectrum’s annual contribution to the U.K. economy by 2025.  It also states that such new and innovative forms of spectrum use will be necessary to keep up with developments such as 5G, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.

For starters, DCMS recommends making additional portions of government-owned spectrum available for public use.  Among other things, DCMS states that that the creation of a central public sector spectrum database should help generate sharing opportunities, and that new technologies such as geolocation databases and white space devices could add to these opportunities.  It also mentions that the Ministry of Defense is in the process of preparing additional bands for sharing and has already agreed to share the 2025-2070 MHz band with wireless cameras on a more formal basis.  Additionally, DCMS notes that it plans to apply the same core principles across all frequencies, to modify its regulatory framework to better support geolocation databases, and to meet with experts and publish additional conclusions by July 2015.

Time will tell whether sharing is an effective and practical way of easing (and perhaps overcoming) the current spectrum crunch.  The U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (“PCAST”) recently considered the same set of issues, and it recommended a similar approach.  

FCC Delays Incentive Auction to Mid-2015

 Contributed by: Trey Hanbury


The US Federal Communications Commission has postponed the auction of 600 MHz broadband spectrum currently occupied by the nation’s over-the-air television operators until mid-2015.

In a blog posted on the Federal Communications Commission’s website on December 6, 2013, Chairman Wheeler announced the delay and a more detailed schedule that sets tentative milestones for activities leading up to the auction.   The blog is short on specifics, but here are the key milestones Wheeler describes by date:

  • January 2014 – the FCC staff intends to announce a more detailed incentive auction schedule at the Commission meeting currently slated for January 30, 2014.
  • “Early 2014” – the Chairman intends to circulate a proposed Incentive Auction Report and Order to the Commissioners.
  • “Spring 2014” – the FCC is scheduled to vote on the Incentive Auctions Report and Order.
  • “Second Half 2014” – the FCC staff is supposed to release an Auction Comment Public Notice and a Procedures Public Notice that will provide additional details and seek comment on how the specific parts of the auction will actually function; these notices will also provide details about some type of extended mock auction that will invite substantial participation from potential bidders.
  • “Mid 2015” and “only when our software and systems are technically ready, user friendly, and thoroughly tested” – the FCC will start the 600 MHz incentive auction.


The subject of multiple congressional hearings, including one before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation this week, the US 600 MHz incentive auction is an innovative, two-sided spectrum auction authorized by the Spectrum Act of 2012 that is designed to encourage over-the-air broadcasters to surrender their spectrum to mobile broadband operators.  The newly announced delay allows the FCC more time to work the many complexities of one of the most technically complicated and politically fraught auctions of all time.