* US broadband plan seeks to free up spectrum
* Proposal could help build land-based networks
* Spectrum auctions, leasing options considered
WASHINGTON, July 15 U.S. regulators proposed
easing restrictions on satellite companies in a move aimed at
freeing more airwaves to feed the growing demand for wireless
The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously on
Thursday to seek comment on a plan to let satellite companies
partner with other business seeking to build land-based
networks or to lease their spectrum to other companies in a
The FCC also sought public comment on allowing satellite
companies to relinquish spectrum in return for proceeds from
future airwaves auctions.
The plan could affect about 90 megahertz of spectrum, held
by companies such as SkyTerra Communications Inc, TerreStar
Corp TSTR.O and Globalstar Inc GSAT.O, that is particularly
suited to broadband delivery.
The FCC's National Broadband Plan aims to open up 500
megahertz (MHz) of airwaves by 2020.
The FCC is also trying to persuade broadcasters to
relinquish about 125 megahertz of spectrum under a voluntary
The satellite move comes after the FCC in late March
approved an application by Harbinger Capital Partners to
acquire SkyTerra, a mobile satellite services company.
Harbinger's approval allows SkyTerra to build a land-based
nationwide broadband network, which is in line with the FCC's
goal to provide broadband access to all Americans including
households located in rural areas of the United States.
But Harbinger needs FCC approval before leasing wholesale
spectrum capacity to the top two wireless providers: AT&T Inc
(T.N) and Verizon Wireless, which is a venture between Verizon
Communications Inc (VZ.N) and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L).
Efforts to free up spectrum by the FCC, which wants more
broadband competition, could help Deutsche Telekom AG's
(DTEGn.DE) U.S. unit, T-Mobile, which is seeking more airwaves
to better compete with AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
President Barack Obama has backed Genachowski's plans to
boost spectrum to support the wireless industry, as more and
more consumers drop their landline connections for smartphones
and other wireless devices.
The White House has said some estimates suggest that the
next five years will see an increase in wireless data of
between 20 times and 45 times 2009 levels.
(Reporting by John Poirier; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)