A move by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set competitive bidding rules for commercial air-to-ground (ATG) spectrum services has cleared the way for the agency’s planned auction of new ATG licenses, writes Mary Kirby.

The FCC order brings companies one step closer to offering broadband and other communication services to airline passengers. Small firms are offered incentives if they participate in the FCC’s planned auction of 4MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz band allocated to ATG services. Under the plan, companies that qualify as very small businesses will be offered discounts of 25% off their winning bid, while small firms will be granted a 15% discount.

Verizon Airfone, which uses the spectrum for its narrowband services, and AirCell have each applauded the agency’s move to formalise a spectrum auction plan, and expect the sale to be held in 2006.

However, a simultaneous decision by the FCC to maintain its original transition plan for commercial ATG spectrum is a potential cause for concern for AirCell and other companies attempting to use the bandwidth. Conversely, it could be beneficial for Airfone.

Source: Flight International