Genachowski promises spectrum sharing tests

NEW ORLEANS Tue May 8, 2012 12:28pm EDT

NEW ORLEANS May 8 (Reuters) - The head of the Federal Communications Commission said on Tuesday that the telecoms regulator will move ahead with tests for sharing spectrum between the government and commercial wireless operators.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the plan in a keynote speech focused on improving network capacity in the U.S. wireless market at the CTIA annual wireless industry conference in New Orleans.

Spectrum is expected to be a major topic at the show among wireless operators, according to executives and analysts.

The regulator said the FCC is now ready to work with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which manages government spectrum, on the tests aimed at discovering whether it is feasible for government users to share the same spectrum with commercial wireless operators.

The move is one element in a bigger FCC plan to increase capacity for rapidly expanding consumer demand for mobile data services, Genachowski said.

The regulator also defended his opposition to AT&T Inc's $39 billion plan to buy smaller rival T-Mobile USA last year, saying the decision did not affect spectrum availability in the U.S. wireless industry.

AT&T, which sharply criticized the FCC after the decision, had argued that it needed to buy the Deutsche Telekom unit in order to have enough spectrum to support its customers' demand for high-speed wireless services.

"The overall amount of spectrum has not changed," Genachowski said. He also lashed out at the notion that the country's spectrum could be used more efficiently if the market had fewer bigger competitors who could invest more in their networks.

"The notion that competition drives spectrum inefficiency is at odds with our history of mobile," Genachowski said, adding that the regulator has a duty to monitor the market to make sure there is healthy competition.

"Our review of one transaction that crossed the line simply proves that there is a line," he said.

Instead Genachowski said that operators should look for ways to manage their networks more efficiently to get more out of the spectrum they own while the FCC works on making more spectrum available.

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