FCC officials confirmed last Friday that the agency has signed a Statement of Intent (SOI) with Industry Canada (IC) setting forth the framework for reconfiguring 600 MHz broadcast television spectrum in the U.S.-Canada border area with the goal of repurposing those channels for mobile broadband use in both countries. Following the earlier release of a Canadian consultation on repurposing the 600 MHz band, the SOI mirrors a similar pact, reached last month, through which the FCC and Mexico’s Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones pledged to follow “common guidelines” for repacking broadcast TV stations in border areas of the U.S. and Mexico. Both agreements are expected to facilitate FCC incentive auctions of 600 MHz broadcast spectrum to the wireless industry starting on March 29, 2016.
In a joint blog post, FCC Incentive Auction Task Force Chairman Gary Epstein and FCC International Bureau Chief Mindel De La Torre asserted that the SOI “significantly reduces potential interference to future wireless operations” in the U.S.-Canadian border region which, in turn, is expected to provide “more ‘clean’ spectrum to meet the growing consumer demand for mobile broadband in both countries.” As they noted that the SOI commits IC to “adopt the same 600 MHz band plan that the FCC adopted last year,” Epstein and De La Torre affirmed that IC and the FCC will “jointly repack TV stations on the same timetable,” which will “produce significantly increased benefits and a better result for both countries, making more broadband spectrum available than if each country proceeded independently.” Epstein and De La Torre thus predicted that the SOI “will promote more competitive bidding for licenses along the border” during the incentive auction as bidders should have greater confidence “that border markets will face less potential interference.”
Representatives of the FCC and IC, meanwhile, are expected to “continue discussions with a view to developing a sharing arrangement for digital television broadcasting . . . and an implementation plan for the transition of TV station facilities to a new DTV allotment plan” within 30 days of the incentive auction closing date. Epstein and De La Torre also said the agencies would continue negotiations toward “developing a frequency sharing arrangement for the use of mobile broadband service within the repurposed spectrum of the UHF band” within 90 days of auction closing.