Wireless Alliance Forms FCC Regulatory Committee

By Roy Mark

August 27, 2002

Group will help determine and establish a common set of guidelines that will allow multiple operators to avoid interference.

The Broadband Wireless Alliance (BWA) has created 17 new broadband wireless working committees, including a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Regulatory Issues Committee and a Frequency Coordination Committee to establish a formal mode of communication from wireless Internet service providers (WISP) to the FCC and vice versa.

The new committees add to the BWA's existing portfolio of services that seek to help small companies within the wireless industry design publicity, advertising, marketing and customer acquisition programs to promote their business.

At many recent industry events, such as the sold out WISP.x Conference and Tradeshow in Washington, D.C., many industry leaders including the FCC have repeatedly said that the wireless industry, and in particular, the growing number of wireless Internet service providers that use public spectrum, needs to establish some form of self regulation and organization under an umbrella industry association in order to establish a presence on Capitol Hill.

Many growing wireless ISPs use public spectrum because the federal government does not require an expensive license to operate in these frequency bands. However, since the spectrum is public, anyone can use it to begin providing high-speed Internet access. The BWA believes in order to allow multiple WISPs to operate in the same metropolitan area, all WISPs would benefit greatly from some type of frequency coordination.

Currently, there is no official body that has accepted this responsibility. The BWA's WISP Frequency Coordination Committee will begin working with hundreds of wireless ISPs to determine and establish a common set of guidelines that will allow multiple operators to avoid interference and operate successfully in their markets.

The committee will also keep track of WISPs and will serve as a starting point for the FCC when a formal complaint is filed. The BWA claims this will be important because it will allow the FCC to determine who launched wireless service in a market first, and a second operator that might be interfering with an existing network's performance, which is a violation of the FCC's Article 15.

The FCC and Regulatory Issues Committee will deal with the political maneuvering going on in Washington with respect to spectrum allocation. Licensed spectrum holders want to take over unlicensed spectrum currently allocated to public bands. Current unlicensed operators want more spectrum to be able to provide more robust services.

FCC officials have said that they have been tasked with providing broadband to as many people as possible as quickly as possible by any means possible and view wireless Internet access as a real broadband contender.

The BWA says the FCC is very aware of the progress that the WISPs are making and would like to see the current growth continue. In order to help WISPs accomplish their objectives, they have repeatedly asked for more feedback from wireless operators on what type of guidelines the FCC should put in place and what WISPs might accomplish if they were allocated more public spectrum.

The FCC has also hinted that if it saw a rapid progression of operators using unlicensed bands to provide broadband access successfully, it would consider how to increase the amount of bandwidth needed to accommodate these operator's needs by allocating more spectrum to the unlicensed bands.

To see a full list of the BWA's working committees, visit the organization's Web site at http://www.bbwexchange.com/bwa.asp.

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