NAB Pushes Back Against Auction-Based Loss of Two Wireless Channels

The National Association of Broadcasters this week issued comments on the FCC’s decision to eliminate two reserved RF channels, amounting to 12 MHz of exclusive spectrum previously reserved as part of a compromise during the TV White Spaces proceeding. When broadcasters lost exclusive access to 10-20 channels in most major television markets, the FCC established the two reserved channels for ENG and other broadcast applications.

However, these two channels are to be eliminated following the upcoming incentive auction. This loss, the NAB’s comments elaborate, is compounded by the FCC’s decision to allow both wireless-microphone and unlicensed operations in the duplex gap, which, according to the association, severely diminishes the utility of this spectrum for wireless-microphone operations.

“Further,” continue the comments (signed by NAB executives, including Rick Kaplan, EVP, strategic planning, and Jerianne Timmerman, SVP/senior deputy general counsel), “the FCC’s current proposal to relocate some television stations to the duplex gap during the repacking process makes this situation even worse; in markets where television stations are relocated in the duplex gap, broadcasters will have no exclusive spectrum on which they can rely to cover breaking news using wireless microphones.”

Noting that the wireless-microphone technology needed to accommodate a repackaged 600 MHz spectrum is not yet available and will take time to develop and that the urgent need for continuity for access to even a limited amount of 600 MHz spectrum for ENG and related applications, the NAB proposed two steps.

“First, consistent with the Commission’s stated intention, the FCC must issue an order in this proceeding identifying as many new bands as possible for use by wireless microphones before the incentive auction commences. Wireless-microphone users will need time to transition to new bands, particularly given the expense associated with their previous transition out of the 700 MHz band. Just as importantly, they will need equipment that will actually function in these bands. …

“Second, the Commission should allow wireless microphones to continue to operate in the 600 MHz band until winning forward auction bidders are actually ready to deploy in the area and the Commission has identified alternative bands to which wireless-microphone operations can relocate.

“Currently, the Commission proposes to allow wireless microphones to continue to operate in the 600 MHz band for a period following the auction, but [they] must cease operations no later than 39 months after the auction. There is no reason to require wireless microphones to cease operations until the spectrum on which they operate is actually put to use by wireless carriers.”

The NAB urged the FCC to identify as many new bands for wireless microphones as possible before the incentive auction takes place and to allow wireless microphones to continue operating in the 600 MHz band until the agency has identified alternative bands to be used until wireless carriers taking possession of newly available spectrum are prepared to deploy.