FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a letter released today that the agency is continuing to work to address operations by a Mexican carrier that have caused interference to spectrum users along the U.S. border, but he said that a solution has yet to be found.
Mr. Pai’s letter, which was dated Aug. 21, responded to an Aug. 18 letter he received from Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas). In his letter to Mr. Pai and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sen. Cruz expressed concern about actual – during testing of the network – and likely interference from Altán Redes, a new Mexican wholesale carrier, to public safety and other operations in the U.S., including the network that AT&T, Inc. is building for the First Responder Network Authority. Sen. Cruz said he was worried that Altán said it would commence operations as soon as Aug. 19.
“Before I offer a more detailed explanation of the situation, I want to begin by making clear that both I and, at my direction, the staff of the Federal Communications Commission, have taken your letter very seriously. For instance, this past Monday, August 19, in a phone call with Chairman Gabriel Contreras SaldIvar of the Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT), the Mexican equivalent of the FCC, I made clear that addressing the issue of interference to U.S. communications immediately was and would continue to be a major priority for our government; that even limited operations by Altán to date had caused interference, including to public safety communications (as you observed in your letter); that I was disappointed that Altán had rejected eminently reasonable proposals for testing, including narrowband testing; and that this issue had the attention of senior officials in multiple branches of our government,” Mr. Pai told Sen. Cruz. “My staff has also been in touch with the office of Salma Jalife Villalón, Undersecretary of Communications and Technological Development in the Ministry of Communications and Transportation (SCT), in order to facilitate a similar conversation. (Additionally, on several previous occasions, I have discussed this issue with one or both of them, including a detailed discussion with Chairman Contreras SaldIvar at the end of July regarding the parameters of testing along the border).
“Moreover, I can assure you that Commission staff have been actively working on this issue with all relevant parties in the United States and Mexico to resolve these issues. We will continue to do so,” Mr. Pai added.
The Chairman stated that more broadly, “the Commission has been fully engaged, in coordination with the State Department and IFT, to craft a revised protocol to govern use of the 700 MHz band across the border, once Mexico chose to implement an incompatible 700 MHz band plan. Based on that extensive groundwork, we believed that there was a path forward that accommodated both robust U.S. carrier operations and the deployment of Altán’s network in that band.
“In conjunction with the State Department, the Commission has worked with the IFT, SCT, and Promtel, the Mexican government entity responsible for facilitating Altán’s use of the 700 MHz band to secure that path forward. In fact, Commission staff and IFT met in person in Mexico City on August 8-9, and in Ottawa, Canada during the week of August 12, and agreed to engage in expedited testing. The Commission believed that we had made progress in its discussions in advancing the view that Altán could use certain frequencies in order to meet their buildout obligations without causing interference.
“Given the promising exchanges on a revised protocol, it was a shock to learn at the eleventh hour that Altán unilaterally decided to turn on its network at a time and in a manner that would directly and foreseeably cause harmful interference to U.S. cellular carriers and their customers who rely on them on a daily basis,” Mr. Pai stressed. “Once we learned of this, we immediately contacted and shared the limited information we had with all domestic carriers potentially affected by Altán’s initiation of service, as well as the State Department. And my staff quickly set up the call with Chairman Contreras that I described earlier in this letter. While I unfortunately cannot tell you that this situation has been resolved, I want you to know that the FCC will continue to make every effort to ensure that the negative consequences of Altán’s decision do not come to pass. We will make sure to keep you informed as things develop.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]
MainStory: FCC FederalNews Congress SpectrumAllocation PublicSafety
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