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Tech / TECHNOLOGY

Wireless Officials Gather in New Orleans With Spectrum on Their Minds

April 30, 2012

CORRECTION: The original story had the wrong date for the CTIA show. The show starts the week of May 7th.

Wireless-industry officials meeting next week in New Orleans will have something to celebrate: After two years of lobbying, Congress finally enacted spectrum legislation in February that wireless firms say will help them meet the nation’s voracious appetite for the stuff.

The legislation authorizes the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a new kind of auction that allows broadcasters to say how much it will take for them to give up some or all of their spectrum to wireless companies.

 

As members of the wireless industry group CTIA gather in the Big Easy, they also will be discussing ways to free up even more spectrum. CTIA and others have begun pushing policy makers to look for ways to get federal agencies to give up some of their spectrum, which industry officials say is underutilized.

“From a policy perspective … spectrum remains our priority,” CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent said in an interview last week. The spectrum legislation passed in February “was an important down payment on the national broadband plan” call to make 300 megahertz available for wireless broadband by 2015 and 500 MHz available by 2020. “We still have some work to do.”

Some broadcasters, who held their own annual event in Las Vegas in mid-April, have questioned whether wireless-industry officials have exaggerated claims that they are facing a spectrum “crisis.” Largent dismissed such talk, saying, “The idea that any type of industry would lay out billions for spectrum they don’t need is just crazy.”

Largent said other issues on the industry’s agenda include persuading Congress to pass legislation that would bar states from imposing higher taxes on wireless services than they do on other goods and services and a bill that would set rules for which states are allowed to tax digital goods such as mobile apps.

CTIA’s annual show is expected to attract the usual crop of government and industry representatives, including Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, who is set to speak on May 8. Another session on that same day will feature executives from the top four wireless carriers, including Sprint CEO Dan Hesse and T-Mobile President and CEO Philipp Humm.

Sprint, of course, fiercely fought T-Mobile USA’s bid to be acquired by AT&T. The deal fell apart in December after regulators came out against the merger. “It could be a real food fight,” Largent quipped.

This year’s show also will end with a high-wattage keynote speaker. Former President Clinton is set to speak to the group on May 10.

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