Spectrum Map improvements in September 2020

I hope everyone had a fun and safe September! Improvements made in September:

  • More mobile friendly – the layout for mobile devices and tablets is improved. This will continue to be refined as time goes on.
  • Minor changes behind the scenes to speed up the app performance, particularly around reducing data download sizes and improving caching.
  • Added Market Name to the pop-up window.
Works well on a phone!

I am looking forward to October! It will be an exciting rest of 2020!

Spectrum Map Improvements in August

This month, the map has been improved with the following changes:

  • More robust data handling from the FCC to ensure all licenses are brought over (the FCC data files are sometimes ill-formatted).
  • Support for county-based licenses that are coded by the FCC as such (like this one). This is most noticeable with the mmWave L1 & L2 bands that were before sparsely populated now display more licenses.

Thats all for now, see you next month!

Spectrum Map update – July 2020! [U]

I’ve been investing time to improve the data quality and completeness in the Spectrum Map, and am finally ready to deliver some of these enhancements! I’m super excited that I can now display P35 GSA BRS/EBS licenses into mappable areas!

BRS/EBS point-based licenses now available!

I have added EBS licenses (Educational Broadband Services) to the map. In order to do this I needed to be able to convert the unique license style (P35 GSA) into a BTA area. P35 GSA licenses are licenses that are assigned on a point/radius basis. This makes them difficult to map. For my spectrum map, I have coded the points into a BTA area, and will display that license in the list for that BTA area. This will also apply to BRS licenses as well, as some of those licenses are P35 GSA (others are BTA-based).

The point will be denoted as a P35 license in the pop-up for that BTA.

One of the caveats is if the 35 mile radius extends into other BTAs, the license will not show up in those BTAs – I am only coding the center point of the license.

Update: As of July 29, I am now able to code both the center point of the license and license area when P35 licenses cross between BTAs. They are indicated on the map tooltip as “P35 Center” and “P35 Radius”.

Leases

In the pop-up for each area, I am noting licenses that are leased out to others, along with a link to the leased license. This is especially useful for the BRS/EBS licenses as those licenses tend to be leased out from the local authority/government to T-Mobile (well, used to be Sprint, but the merger happened).

Special Temporary Authority/Development

The other improvement I’m happy to deliver is reporting if a license is a STA/Development license. This is useful to know if you see multiple license holders in an area, you know which one is the permanent one and which one is a temporary license.

I am continuing to work on other improvements as well, I hope to deliver them in a few months. Stay safe!

Spectrum Map version 5!

Its time for Version 5!

There isn’t a lot new on the surface for this update. I’ve changed my back-end data source from the now defunct FCC License Viewer to ULS data dumps. A lot went into this effort to completely change how I was downloading and processing the data. It now uses The Cloud(TM) to help in the data processing and file generation. 

The result is more data in a more timely manner. I now should support nearly all mobile/cellular licenses that are associated with a market area. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t support point-based licenses for EBS. 

The data should be updated on a weekly basis, and be updated without me having to lift a finger. 

If you see any issues with the new version of the website, contact me via the contact form!

Take Our Survey!

Please take our survey and help us determine the future of Spectrum Omega! Your input is critical to the future of this website, and I would love to hear from our users about what is important (or not) to using the website, and how much time I should invest in building new features. It is only nine questions and I’m sure it won’t take more than a few minutes of your time. Thank you!

Data updates resumed & Visual Refresh

The FCC resumed updating their License View data dump in August, so I have resumed data updates for the Spectrum Map. The FCC updates the License View data weekly. Expect updates to the map data at least once a month, if not more than that (my goal is 2-3x a month, depending on my free time).

I also did a minor visual refresh of the site – it should work a little better on smaller devices like iPhones and iPads, and also is leveraging modern web development tools.

I’m glad to be back, I plan to keep this site going as long as there is interest and the FCC keeps their data sources updated!

If you’d like to contact me, feel free to drop me a line on my contact page.

End of the Spectrum Map? Part deux…

So for the second time, the FCC has stopped updating my data source (the first time was the Spectrum Dashboard, and then I rewrote my scripts to parse the License View data dump).

I’m loathe to rewrite it for a third time (using the direct data dumps from the ULS) mostly because I’m too busy. With 50 hour work weeks becoming more frequent, a wife, and friends I don’t get to see much, I don’t have a lot of free time anymore (when I first wrote this, I was single, all my friends were married, and had tremendous amounts of free time). Its one thing to fire up a python script once every two weeks to download and update the data from the FCC, its another thing to have to dedicate 100+ hours to rewrite the back end from scratch (data processing, cleanup, normalization, store into a DB, generate static data files).

So I think this might be the end, if the FCC doesn’t update the License View dataset ever again. I could care less about their Spectrum Dashboard, that was a difficult tool to use productively. But the raw License View data was much easier to ingest and process – its way more valuable to the community. Lets hope this doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

AWS-3 Auction Results

  1. Dish-affiliated bidders, with their DE credits, managed to secure a lot of “G” blocks in major metro areas.
  2. AT&T is still at a deficit of spectrum in the top 10 markets. Things get better after that.
  3. Verizon is doing OK on spectrum, they have enough spectrum in the top 25 markets to do 20×20 LTE (if they can manage to either do intra-band aggregation or make some spectrum swap deals with the other carriers).
  4. T-Mobile spent very little in the auction, but I think that’s on purpose (they want more 600MHz spectrum). They picked up a little spectrum here and there at a great value.

Open spreadsheet in full window

AWS-3 Auction Predictions

I published this via twitter a week or two ago, and now I’ve cleaned it up and am publishing it here. In general terms, I expect Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile to each own about 40-50MHz in the AWS-1/3 combined spectrum “superband” after the auction closes. This, after some deals between the three of them to reorganize the spectrum so its contiguous, will allow each of them to deliver end-user speeds of 15-25Mbps in areas of good coverage.

[Update 3/31/2014: Updated to reflect FCC’s band plan for AWS-3, also tweaked the results slightly to accommodate the new band plan]

Combined with lower band 600 and 700 MHz spectrum, along with refarming of PCS 1900MHz spectrum over the next 5 years, LTE coverage should be greatly improved in terms of speed and capacity.

What is left to determine is how end-user usage patterns will change when they have access to higher speeds – will they need to move up from a 10GB bucket to a 15GB bucket for their family of four lines, or will users keep their habits in check and the carriers are left with an overbuilt network because people aren’t streaming video for fear of data overages?

How a Sprint/T-Mobile merger should happen

Disclaimer: let me say I’m against the merger today. However if it were to happen, this is how it should happen.

First, T-Mobile should be allowed to succeed for fail on its own. Its fourth quarter numbers weren’t great. If T-Mo can turn it around on their own and become profitable in the US and they don’t need to be bought out, then great. If they cant, and we get to the point where the US market has proven that it cant sustain four profitable, healthy carrier networks, then T-Mobile and Sprint should be allowed to merge. But this means giving T-Mobile time to fix and market themselves.

In the same vein, Sprint should be allowed to fix themselves and open themselves to other opportunities. Masayoshi Son said recently about offering wire-line replacement at speeds of 200Mbit/s using 2.5GHz BRS/EBS spectrum.

I’m guessing we wont be able to make this judgment on whether current actions will turn around both companies until late 2016 or 2017. So any merger shouldn’t be allowed until then.

By then, what would a Sprint/T-Mobile merger look like? Probably a lot easier than what it would take in 2014 or 2015. Most notably, omni-band phones would allow Sprint to push most of its consumer and business customers over to T-Mobile’s faster GSM/LTE network rather easily and quickly.

T-Mobile will have some 700-A spectrum assets to leverage for better LTE coverage, as well as upcoming 600MHz band assets as well. They’ll have likely rounded out their AWS spectrum with spectrum from the AWS-3 auction to ensure 20+20 LTE in the top 50 markets (they only need 10MHz in many markets, 20MHz in a few markets). There will also be opportunities post-auction to rebalance spectrum assets from market to market, as Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T look to rebalance their spectrum block between markets such that they own continuous blocks of spectrum – in most cases, Verizon will occupy the lower 40MHz (A&B), T-Mobile the middle 40/50 (C, D, E and F), and AT&T the upper 40/50 (future blocks in the AWS-3 auction).

Sprint will offer supplemental LTE with their 2.5GHz small cells to provide higher capacity and speeds in dense metro areas. Sprint’s legacy CDMA will have to stick around a long while for M2M customers, but they could start refarming CDMA capacity in the PCS band for additional LTE.

From a technology standpoint, waiting another two years down the road makes it easier. But will the owners of T-Mobile and Sprint want to wait that long? I think they’d like to go right now. Its up to the FCC and DOJ to make sure that we have four viable carriers in the marketplace until the marketplace proves definitively that its not going to work.