WIRELESS Advancements Leaving Industry with Few Options

By By Morgan O’Brien, Vice Chairman, pdvWireless Board of Directors

Morgan O’Brien, Vice Chairman, pdvWireless Board of DirectorsAmerica today enjoys a veritable banquet of wireless opportunities, services, and innovations brought to them by a fully competitive wireless marketplace. The light hand of regulation, both by Republicans and Democrats, over the years has paid off handsomely for consumers. While the servings of wireless offerings are heaping, there is at least one item that should be added to the menu. Our nation’s critical infrastructure industries need dedicated spectrum that is capable of supporting broadband applications so that they too can benefit from these wireless opportunities. One industry that stands to gain tremendous capabilities in broadband use cases is the energy sector. Established and emerging energy players in the evolving “smart grid” deserve the access and opportunity to avail themselves of these modernized technologies so they may ensure continued reliable and resilient power service to our nation.

The modernization of the nation’s electric grid will require the development and implementation of a secure and reliable telecommunications strategy. A secure and dedicated wireless broadband network is essential to this plan as is a spectrum, a mandatory resource. Energy security requires smart technology that enables situational awareness and provides intelligence to the control room. Utilities are struggling to advance and implement these updates in part due to constraints around communications networks and spectrum availability. The fact is, public telecom networks simply cannot meet these unique industry requirements which include priority access, grid centric application development and integration. The lack of licensed and dedicated spectrum makes improving grid resiliency and advanced services difficult and slow-going at best. Broadband technology would make these improvements possible but cannot be deployed on the currently fragmented spectrum channelization and with the outdated rules that currently govern critical spectrum resources.

In addition, mission-critical services for monitoring and operating facilities need coverage in locations where commercial mobile networks don’t always operate. For several years, my colleagues and investors in a small start-up, pdvWireless, have acquired and shaped a unique 900 MHz spectrum resource that could play a vital role in providing advanced and customized connectivity to the foundational elements of a more modern, secure grid. With a nod of approval from the FCC on a licensing realignment, we will launch a cost-effective 900MHz broadband network buildout, creating the opportunity for the private market to implement new technologies to predict and outpace the daily challenges and threats facing our nation’s most critical assets, systems, and networks. Sometimes, I hear that it is late in the game to be introducing another wireless capability option, but I was fortunate to have benefited from the FCC’s foresight and forbearance in these matters in the past with the creation of Nextel. With FCC support, despite the objections of anxious competitors, we built a robust wireless competitor that went on to pioneer a number of innovations that became an accepted part of the wireless world. The opportunity to build and innovate is before us again. As technology and network capabilities continue to evolve at a rapid speed, we should continue to look for creative solutions to ensure we are not just leading for the general public, but the industries that serve the general public. Spectrum is a finite resource and it is on the private market to identify these opportunities, present solutions to regulators and ensure it is being put to the best and highest uses for all. Hopefully, there will be room at the wireless table for one more innovator seeking to knit the future of broadband into the fabric of our economy.

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