FCC to Buy Spectrum From TV Stations to Expand Wireless Bandwidth

The Federal Communications Commission has unveiled plans to buy back spectrum from broadcast TV stations to make more bandwidth available to mobile service providers.

The FCC’s plan is hold “incentive auctions” for the broadcast spectrum, starting with reverse auctions that invite broadcasters to submit the prices at which they would be willing to give up usage rights for their alloted frequencies.  The stations’ spectrum allocations will then be “repackaged” by the FCC into lower-frequency bands, freeing up more valuable UHF bandwidth for use by wireless service providers, who will then bid for the open spectrum in a regular auction.

The chief aim of the FCC’s reallocation plan is to free up desperately needed spectrum, as mandated by Congress earlier this year.  In its announcement, the agency pointed out that “today’s smartphones use 35 times more spectrum than traditional cell phones, and tablets use 121 times as much spectrum.”

But since the ultra-high-frequency bandwidth can be put to much more profitable use by the telecoms than the TV stations, the FCC also expects that the whole process will provide a tidy profit for U.S. taxpayers.  And of course, Congress has already decided how to spend it:

“Additionally, as Congress directed, certain proceeds from the incentive auction will be deposited in the Public Safety Trust Fund to fund a national first responder network, state and local public safety grants, public safety research, and national deficit reduction.”

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