This story from Ars Technica, about the pending 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction (via Digg here) really interests me.

Just when I think the FCC can’t be any more generally useless and that, unless Google grabs up the entire spectrum, we’ll further be doomed to more Ma Bell / AT&T anti-competitive practices in the US wireless market, something amazing happens.

Not only have the FCC adopted two open access policies for the national spectrum (requiring open devices and open applications for all customers), which had been heavily advocated by Google to help open up the market, even if a single company were to snag the entire spectrum; but the FCC have also carved out several portions of the spectrum that would be reserved for local / regional use only.

This really is amazingly good news if you think about it. Say we have a worst-case scenario: AT&T drops a huge chunk of change to snag up the entire national spectrum in the auction. Well that’s alright, because smaller organizations can still bid on the regional portions of the spectrum and continue to offer competitive services to a more focused market. Simply because they don’t have the bankroll of a mega corporation, doesn’t mean they’re completely out of the market.

On top of everything else, there are built-in requirements for these areas of the spectrum that govern how much of the licensed region must be provided service within x years.

Finally, the smaller portion of the national spectrum comes with an added bonus… and an added curse… for the company that purchases it. They get a small chunk of wireless spectrum for their own evil purposes, but they also get a significantly larger chunk for free. One caveat: they have to build out a public services network on this extended real estate. That means they’ll have significantly higher implementation costs to develop the actual network, but after it’s in place, they get free use of this additional spectrum (provided it’s not in use for the public services at the time). In the end, everyone really wins, as long as a company can find it financially reasonable to take this jump.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m looking forward to these auctions next year. This should be a pretty exciting time for wireless technology, regardless of who wins the national chunk in the end.

Originally published and updated .
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