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« Rundown of Mobile WiMax Versus Wi-Fi | Main | Sprint CEO Forsee Resigns; Whither WiMax? »

October 1, 2007

Tardy Schools Try to Renew 2.5 GHz Licenses for Let to Sprint, Clearwire

By Glenn Fleishman

As might be recalled, a good hunk of the 2.5 GHz that Clearwire and Sprint Nextel “own” is sublet from academic and other institutions which originally received allocations for distance learning, among other purposes: Ah for the days when sweet, prime spectrum was given away without a purpose being set in stone. Congress allowed the institutions that were granted these licenses to sell them as a sort of non-auction backdoor that’s resulted in the holdings primarily in the hands of Sprint Nextel and Clearwire today.

Many institutions apparently forgot they had the spectrum, and has the value has become known have filed renewal notices, both on time and late. Apparently, some lapsed licenses if renewed would impinge on other coverage areas, which doesn’t exactly make sense to me since 2.5 GHz licenses were assigned on a frequency and geographically divided basis. There must have been some multiple licenses in the same areas who were supposed to work out conflicts.

Clearwire, which has more of these licenses, Marketwatch reports, wants the expired licenses renewed, because, they say, that would speed the way to getting that spectrum in use. Sprint not so much, as they apparently think they have an advantage in their spectrum portfolio. Clearwire and Sprint will build out a network jointly, if the government approves, but I imagine revenue splits and roaming may be based on coverage areas. The less Clearwire has, the more Sprint can sell to what would have been Clearwire customers.

This article also notes that a lawsuit against the Peralta Community College District was settled with Peralta receiving more fees than originally agreed to. Peralta had alleged a side agreement with Clearwire that would have provided more than the main agreement promised. The suit was filed in mid-2006. The license was their only viable San Francisco Bay Area spectrum at the time.

Posted by Glennf at October 1, 2007 11:02 AM

Categories: 2.5 GHz, Regulatory, Spectrum, competitive landscape


To expand a bit on what George B said - BRS (MMDS) licenses were granted on both a BTA (Basic Trading Area) and P35 (35-mile radius protected service area) basis; EBS (ITFS) licenses were all P35 licenses. BTA licenses explicitly exclude all the P35 serving areas using those channels within the BTA boundary. While the BRS and EBS bands don't overlap for the most part, the new BRS/EBS band plan has three EBS channels in space that's now allocated to BRS. And the way the transition rules work, the entity wanting to make use of the channels in the new band plan bears the cost of relocation.

I'm pretty sure that Clearwire has more leased EBS spectrum than does Sprint, so renewed EBS licenses represent more spectrum leasing opportunities for Clearwire.

On the other hand, Sprint has far more BRS BTA licenses than does Clearwire (297 vs. 43, if my data is up to date) - and every EBS license in the G1, G2, or G3 channels in a BTA where Sprint holds the BRS license takes a 3850 square mile chunk out of a Sprint licensed serving area. Even if the channels aren't being used (likely, if the licenses were allowed to expire), there's legwork (and cost) involved in data gathering, investigation, and filing documents with the FCC (all done by consultants, usually, so it's green money to Sprint). Not to mention the incentive that EBS license holders would have to offer Sprint a long-term lease of their licenses so that Sprint could avoid the hassle of the band plan transition...

So it's much more in Sprint's interest for expired EBS licenses to not be renewed.

Posted by: DG Lewis at October 3, 2007 11:09 AM

2.5 to 2.69GHz EBS and BRS licenses in the US frequently cover a circular area. When the edges of the circular areas for two licenses on the same channel overlap, this potential conflict is resolved by drawing a line between the two points where the circles overlap and cutting the overlap area in half. I assume that if one license is not renewed, the party with the remaining valid license wants to recover the other half of the overlap area previously sliced off.

Posted by: George B at October 2, 2007 3:54 PM

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