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Spectrum Choices Complicate Mobile Media

There�s much debate about the potential consumer uptake for video via mobile phones, including moderate-to-high demand for sports video clips, news, traffic reports, film trailers and the like. But companies eager to launch mobile broadband have to answer two other questions first. What frequencies to use? And how do they get that transmission spectrum?

�Companies can license spectrum at competitive auctions, acquire from private companies that already control spectrum, arrange asset swaps with companies that control desired spectrum, or partner with companies,� says Sharon Armbrust, senior analyst at Kagan Research. �It�s a momentous decision because spectrum choices will determine their ability to seize �first mover� advantage and could also dictate limitations for later technology upgrades.�

Video transmission will require big chunks of wireless spectrum and at least 11 bands are being considered by service providers. These include upcoming auctions scheduled by the Federal Communications Commission for Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) and 700 MHz. �Taxpayers are expected to receive, according to analysts, anywhere from $8 bil. to $15 bil. in auction revenue� from the AWS bidding, FCC commissioner Michael J. Copps notes in a statement.

�While mobile broadband entertainment requires a lot of bandwidth, fortunately the amount of spectrum coming to market via auction over the next couple years is substantial,� notes Armbrust. If consumer appetite for mobile content meets expectations, the spectrum available will likely be all gobbled up.

�That said, the economics of wireless data are still untested and not all the spectrum for sale is created equal,� Armbrust continues. �Frequency locations, interference issues, timing of availability and buyers� business models are all going to color the value placed by competitors on the assortment of licenses.�

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