FCC Plans 'Flexible' Band Use for Wireless Service

     WASHINGTON (CN) - Skyrocketing demand for mobile broadband service has prompted the FCC to propose expanding the Personal Communications Services (PCS) band.
     The Federal Communication Commission has proposed the creation of the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) H Block, which would extend the Personal Communications Services (PCS) band by 10 megahertz, for flexible use. The PCS is heavily used by Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile, the nation's big four providers, as well as their rural counterparts.
     The additional spectrum is meant to help maintain the speed and capacity of the nation's wireless networks amid the unprecedented demand for mobile service.
     If approved, the new rule would mark the FCC's first step in implementing a Congressional directive in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, more widely known as the "payroll tax cut." In addition to the extension of Medicare and unemployment benefits, the act calls for an establishment of a national public safety broadband network, which will expand high-speed wireless broadband and give better access to first responders, such as fire and police, in an emergency.
     "Wireless broadband is a key component of economic growth, job creation and global competitiveness because consumers are increasingly using wireless broadband services to assist them in their everyday lives," the FCC said in its bandwidth proposal.
     The FCC plans to grant new initial licenses for the 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz bands, known as the lower H block and the upper H block, respectively. A system of competitive bidding will determine who is granted the commercial use licenses.
     The plan to extend the bandwidth includes licensing the H block as paired five-megahertz blocks, with the upper block used for high-power base stations and the lower block for mobile and low power fixed operations. The licensing will also be based on a geographic and economic area scheme.
     "We seek to adopt a service area size for the H Block that meets several statutory goals," the FCC said in its bandwidth proposal. "These include facilitating access to spectrum by both small and large providers, providing for the efficient use of the spectrum, encouraging deployment of wireless broadband services to consumers, especially those in rural areas, and promoting investment in and rapid deployment of new technologies and services consistent with our obligations under section 309(j) of the Communications Act."