Evolution in the Cellular Service

In the 1980s, the FCC launched the 800 MHz Mobile Service, the first “cell phone” spectrum band, sparking a worldwide mobile trend. Three decades later, Cellular has been, by any measure, an incredible success. Providing a few frequencies, wireless operators have deployed multiple generations of wireless systems covering more than 99% of the Oughout. S. population. Yet, with the passing of time, it has become clear that many of the rules governing the Mobile Service have not kept pace with changes in technology and in the overall regulatory landscape. The time has come to upgrade the Cellular Service rules for that 21st Century.

Today, Chief Wheeler circulated a draft Report and Order and additional Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that puts forth main changes to modernize and streamline the Commission’s rules and application processes for Cellular Service licensees. This reform would fulfill the recommendation in the Staff Report on FCC Process Reform by decreasing regulatory burdens and fostering the deployment of new generations of Mobile Service across the country.

Because the Commission first adopted rules governing the Cellular Service, mobile assistance and mobile devices have evolved from analog-based voice communications using suitcase-style gadgets, to high speed mobile broadband making use of pocket sized computers. The Mobile Service licensing rules have not kept pace.

Over time, most of the Commission’s legacy Cellular rules that were instrumental in developing a successful assistance have outlived their usefulness and several now burden the timely deployment of the latest technologies.

The proposed rule changes reveal many years of experience with the Cellular rules and extensive engagement with stakeholders about how to move forward with reform. The draft Statement and Order would certainly transition the site-based Cellular Program to a geographic-based licensing regime. This particular shift would bring the Cellular Program into greater harmony with other cellular services, including PCS, 700 MHz and AWS. Under this approach, the Commission would eliminate or revise a large number of filing requirements, reduce licensee filing burdens by more than 60 per cent, and eliminate barriers to the timely deployment of advanced services to the public.

In the Further Notice , the Commission would propose and look for comment on additional issues relating to Mobile Service reform, including technical modifications that could foster the deployment associated with wider-band technologies, such as LTE.

A lot has changed in the past 30 years. It is amazing that the Mobile Service has been going strong with this long. Despite this success, the time has come to prepare the Cellular Service for that next 30 years of innovation.


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