A New Spectrum License for Old Circumstances: A Retrospective Look at the Nextel Interference Proceedings

25 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2017 Last revised: 16 Aug 2017

See all articles by Martin Saint

Martin Saint

Carnegie Mellon University

Tim Brown

Carnegie Mellon University

Date Written: March 31, 2017


In this paper, we apply an idea few are familiar with to a situation resolved over a decade ago. Why?

We consider the idea of a spectrum license with certain traditional features, but where the regulator retains an option to modify parameters of the license in pre-specified ways over time. For example, the regulator may guarantee access to a particular spectrum bandwidth but retain the option to change the center frequency within a specified band with appropriate notice. The intent of this licensing structure is to provide flexibility for the regulator and certainty for the licensee that does not always exist under current licensing approaches.

In this paper, we examine, retrospectively, the application of this license-with-an-option feature to the case of Nextel Communications interfering with public safety communications in the 800 MHz band. This issue initially surfaced in 1999 and took until 2004 to reach agreement on a resolution. Implementation of the accord took nearly four years more. The resolution required several proposals by the FCC and others and over 2,200 filings by interested parties. The duration and rich variety of concerns covered by the proceedings provide the opportunity to examine a new idea in the context of an old problem.

Despite the historical perspective, the underlying spectrum management issues remain as relevant as ever, and we examine the application of the new license concept looking forward as well as backward. Our license proposal is intended to provide flexibility and certainty to a variety of situations, including (1) changes in technology, demand, or use; (2) coexistence between multiple services, and; (3) efficient use of spectrum over time. These were central issues in the Nextel interference proceedings but re-surfaced in recent cases such as the LightSquared proposal, and even current debates over spectrum sharing with public safety.

Spectrum issues such as allocation and allotment, assignment, service rules, and compliance and enforcement continue as contentious management issues, even as the situations and applications evolve. We suggest that existing fixed licensing models are sub-optimal, and in some cases are themselves the source of inflexibility and artificial scarcity. In this paper we contribute, via a case study, further development of a license model that augments existing approaches across a wide range of governance models and assignment strategies. This license capitalizes on the present trends toward spectrum sharing and more efficient use of existing spectrum and advances a model that assists with these goals.

Keywords: TPRC, policy, regulation, dynamic, spectrum, license, Nextel, public safety, interference

Suggested Citation

Saint, Martin and Brown, Tim, A New Spectrum License for Old Circumstances: A Retrospective Look at the Nextel Interference Proceedings (March 31, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2944337 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2944337

Martin Saint (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Tim Brown

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics