I'm listening to a Webcast of the Senate Commerce Committee's hearing on the Cyren Call proposal.
The idea, put forward by former Nextel Vice Chair Morgan O'Brien, is for Congress to take 30 MHz of (formerly analog TV) spectrum in the 700 MHz band, which is currently scheduled to be auctioned early next, and give it to a "Public Safety Broadband Trust" that would be managed by his new company, Cyren Call. Cyren Call would lease the spectrum to commercial wireless companies, which would build out a nationwide network and use it for commercial services, but public safety agencies would get to use it more or less for free.
Cyren Call has lobbied the plan on the basis that it's needed for public safety interoperability and broadband. Not surprisingly, public safety seems to think it's a great idea too. A study I co-authored (Full disclosure: It was funded by the High Tech DTV Coalition and CEA.) shows the plan isn't likely to work, for lots of reasons. (See http://www.criterioneconomics.com/news/070206.php.)
The thing I found really striking about today's hearing is that Mr. O'Brien came right out and said his real goal here is to create a new cell phone company, which (he argues) would benefit consumers. Did I miss something, or did we just go through a round of much-needed consolidation in the wireless industry? And, if things have changed and we really do need another carrier, what's stopping Cyren Call (or anyone else) from buying the spectrum at the auction?
The history of farming the FCC for free spectrum is long and sordid. Auctions seem to have gotten the problem under control. Hopefully, Mr. O'Brien's laudable candor will help Congress to see the Cyren Call plan for what it is.