Ready, Fire…But No Real Aim

Posted by: Joan Marsh on October 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Yesterday, we were the recipient of another Public Knowledge nasty-gram.  You know the drill.  PK latches onto some straight-forward fact, misrepresents it to some extreme and lashes out with a press release or blog containing reckless and unfounded allegations.  

In this case, Public Knowledge is spinning AT&T’s attempt to sell its WCS C and D block spectrum licenses, which PK alleged was hypocritical and borderline sinister.  Let’s take a moment to reflect on the irony of this allegation.  PK has for months accused us of hoarding spectrum, and now they are indignant and outraged that we are trying to . . . (dramatic pause, insert snippet from Psycho soundtrack) . . . sell spectrum.  Even inside the beltway, that dog don’t woof. 

But more disturbing is how the allegation lays bare just how unknowledgeable Public Knowledge is about spectrum and wireless network deployments – that and how willing it is to mislead.  Let’s consider some basic facts about the WCS C and D blocks (which you won’t find in PK’s press release).  

First, the C and D blocks are 5 MHz licenses, unpaired.  Second, they are adjacent to the SDARS allocation (think Sirius satellite radio), and the WCS service rules effectively require 2.5 MHz of each block to be used for a guard band against interference.  The 2.5 MHz of remaining spectrum in each block is not suitable for LTE or even HSPA, both of which require wider channels and paired spectrum.  

Third, the power levels and other technical limitations imposed on the WCS band (all of which are extensively catalogued in the petition for reconsideration AT&T filed after the service rules were announced), create additional and substantial challenges for mobile broadband deployment. 

Yet PK suggests in its accusations that these two small unpaired and technically challenged blocks of spectrum can somehow solve the very real and consequential capacity constraints that this company faces.  At best, PK reveals just how little it understands about the merits of our proposal to acquire T-Mobile. 

The spectrum might, however, be useful for some niche application, like a Smart Grid or backhaul deployment, or for some new innovative deployment on the horizon.  We therefore offered the spectrum on the secondary market, which enables efficient use of spectrum resources – fully consistent with the Commission’s spectrum policies.  Indeed, the National Broadband Plan recommended finding new ways to encourage secondary market transactions.  These very types of transactions led to the creation of companies like NextTel and Clearwire.  

In the end, despite the expression of interest from multiple entities, we currently have no binding offers for the licenses.  Perhaps the technical challenges in the band are simply too great.  But none of this stopped PK from making its factless and feckless allegations; allegations that had no merit and served no useful advocacy purpose.  Unfortunately, PK is more about PR than “public knowledge.” 

And I fully expect the PK nasty-grams to continue.  In fact, it’s only a matter of time before they pivot back to accusing us of spectrum hoarding.  After all, they’ve never been encumbered in their accusations by the hobgoblin of consistency. 

Happy Halloween.

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