TR Daily: Pacific DataVision Executives Say They Are Working With CII Entities

LAS VEGAS – Executives of Pacific DataVision, Inc., (d/b/a pdvWireless) said today they are working with critical infrastructure industry (CII) entities to answer their questions about the company’s proposal to launch a 900 megahertz band broadband network. But they said that many answers, such as rebanding details, will not be known until all of the necessary data are available.

The executives also said they have not gotten any indication from the FCC about whether and when it might adopt a notice of proposed rulemaking to explore the merits of the network.

“We have no desire to be adversarial with them,” pdvWireless President and Chief Executive Officer John Pescatore told TRDaily during an interview this morning at the IWCE show here, referring to CII entities such as utilities. “We want to get to a solution.”

He added, “It’s a process. They have their concerns, and we have to get to a point where they’re able to get comfortable, and that’s our obligation.”

Morgan O’Brien, vice chairman of pdvWireless, agreed. “We continue to work with as many as these players who will work with us,” he said.

Messrs. Pescatore and O’Brien were both executives at Nextel Communications, Inc., (now part of Sprint Corp.), and Mr. O’Brien was a cofounder of Nextel.

CII entities such as utilities and oil and gas providers have blasted a petition for rulemaking filed last year by the Enterprise Wireless Alliance and PDV (TRDaily, Nov. 18, 2014) asking the FCC to realign the 900 MHz part 90 land mobile radio band to enable the creation of the broadband service in 6 MHz of the 10 MHz of spectrum that would give priority access to CII parties.

Last year, PDV acquired Sprint’s 900 MHz band spectrum licenses, which total about 6 MHz nationwide and had been used for the now-defunct iDEN service. As a result, pdvWireless has 60% of the spectrum in question.

In comments filed in Rulemaking 11738 in January (TRDaily, Jan. 13), CII entities said that while they need additional spectrum to meet their broadband needs, the broadband network proposal has many flaws.

For example, they complained that the petition lacks key technical, cost, and other details, and they expressed concern that the proposal would result in interference to narrowband operations. They also said they were worried about rebanding, citing difficulties with 800 MHz rebanding and asking for more detail concerning how relocating licensees would get comparable facilities; whether the system would be adequately hardened to meet the needs of CII entities; how much the services would cost; and whether EWA should be designated the sole frequency coordinator.

Some parties asked the FCC to deny the petition, while others said the FCC should explore the issues raised in a notice of inquiry rather than an NPRM.

During today’s interview, Messrs. Pescatore and O’Brien acknowledged the criticism and questions, but Mr. O’Brien said that some of the complaints have softened as his company has had discussions with stakeholders. He said his company has continued to work with the Utilities Telecom Council, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Association of American Railroads.

“We believe there are technical approaches which we can adopt which ought to resolve the issues,” Mr. O’Brien said.

He said that the criticisms of the petition for rulemaking generally boil down to concerns that out-of-band emissions (OOBE) from the broadband network will cause interference to incumbents. He said that can be addressed with the imposition of stringent OOBE emissions limits on base stations and subscriber devices.

He also noted that some parties have expressed concern that reducing the number of narrowband channels from 399 to 149 won’t provide wide enough separation distances between channels for narrowband users. Mr. O’Brien said this issue, which he said involves large users, can be addressed through the use of state-of-the-art combiner technology “with the same performance.” In the alternative, additional antennas can be purchased, he said, adding that pdvWireless would be obligated to pay for those under the FCC’s “comparable facilities” rules.

“All of this is ground that has been very well-plowed in the 800 MHz rebanding,” Mr. O’Brien said. “We have some of the most experienced people from that now working with us. So we’re applying all of the lessons learned from the 800 MHz rebanding.”

The executives also said that rebanding in the 900 MHz band should be much less complex than the 800 MHz rebanding.

Messrs. Pescatore and O’Brien also said that right now, they only have the FCC’s licensing database to work with to determine the rebanding that will be necessary – and that’s a problem.

“All we’ve got is the FCC’s licensing records, which are a pale reflection of reality,” Mr. O’Brien said, adding that in some situations systems have not been built out to as many sites as licensed.

Some systems have moved to other sites but are still listed in the FCC’s records as being in their original locations, Mr. Pescatore said. “The more we’re out there, the more we put together,” he added.

While EWA joined pdvWireless in the petition for rulemaking, UTC did not, even though it had indicated it might. Mr. O’Brien said that his company and EWA worked with UTC and API as the petition was drafted, but that UTC and its members were not prepared to join the filing before it was filed.

He said that while the FCC has not indicated whether and when it will issue an NPRM, he was pleased the FCC quickly sought comment on the petition in a public notice. “That put us a little ahead of schedule,” he said. “I think at this point, there’s a pretty good record of what the issues are.”

Asked to respond to concerns that the network would not be hardened enough for CII entities, he said pdvWireless would sign service level agreements with customers that would stipulate that and other issues. Such agreements will also address issues of what would occur if pdvWireless goes out of business, Messrs. Pescatore and O’Brien said.

Mr. O’Brien said some large users have suggested they would not support the network unless they are further “incentivized” past having their relocation costs paid for. Mr. O’Brien said his company is not interested in providing such further incentives.

As to whether the network being built by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), which is likely to provide secondary access to utilities and others, would be a competitor to the one planned by pdvWireless, Mr. O’Brien noted that many CII entities may want access to both, saying that devices pdvWireless would offer would likely be able to access FirstNet’s 700 MHz band network. But he noted that FirstNet would not provide priority access to CII entities on its systems, as pdvWireless would.

At its core, Mr. O’Brien said that what his company is proposing is consistent with the FCC’s goal of enabling the availability of new LTE technology – and furthering broadband deployment.

He suggested that pdvWireless could be successful at the FCC “if we play the hand properly, we don’t act like a bull in a china shop, we say to every legitimate concern [that] there’s an answer for that.” But he also said that “having been at this 40 years, I’ve never seen a proposal go into the FCC, and come out the other end in the exact same format. The FCC always adds something, subtracts something, modifies something.”

In the near term, pdvWireless plans to launch a two-way radio network targeting small- and medium-sized dispatch-oriented businesses in major metro markets.

Mr. Pescatore said service to the first four markets will be up by the end of June, although he did not name the markets. Mr. O’Brien said that service will allow pdvWireless to “get a very nice return without any move to broadband. So there’s a fail-safe.” – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com