Fixing the D-Block

Posted in 700 MHz at 10:51 am by JamesNeel

While the SDR Forum is putting together a nice document on technical fixes to D-block challenges (when it’s public, I’ll post a link), I remain convinced that it’s the business side that’s the bigger stumbling block. My quick thoughts on possible methods to fix the business aspects of Block-D.

1) Set up a government sponsored enterprise (GSE) (think Fannie Mae) and allocate the spectrum to it.

My rationale: the public/private partnership is scary to private companies (for a variety of reasons) and puts a lot of control over a private network in public hands. Because there’s also commercial uses, it doesn’t quite make sense to treat the nationwide spectrum like a traditional public safety network. In my mind, GSEs serve a similar quasi-public/quasi-private role and I think similar mechanisms could be used to ensure the spectrum gets put to use in the way that best serves the needs of government agencies while yielding some added benefits to the economy.

2) Rather than having the service fees negotiated after the fact by the public-private partnership, go ahead and state them up-front.

My rationale: Markets tend to do a better job of clearing when there are fewer unknowns and the D-block is riddled with unknowns.

3) Give an added tax break for deploying D-block equipment.

My rationale: Obviously, the commercial market thought the spectrum was over-priced. However, having a high price serves to keep out non-credible bidders. One way to lower the price is to cut payments on the backside. If structured right, it could give a significant incentive to building out and serving the public’s need.

4) Change the bid for D-block spectrum from a payment to a deposit returned as public-safety service is enabled.

My rationale: Same as for #3, but with a different mechanism. Again, there’s lots of room for tuning incentives here.

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