FCC streamlines wireless licensing process

Existing Systems Redvelopment - Honorable Mention
FCC streamlines wireless licensing process
April 1999
COMPANY: Federal Communications Commission's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB)
PURPOSE: To keep pace with the growing demands for wireless domestic licenses, while creating a more efficient and cost-effective way of doing business.

APPLICATION: Universal Licensing System -- Everybody you know is getting a cell phone and a pager. Whether you find this explosion of wireless services daunting or not, there is no doubt it is happening. The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) is in charge of administering most of the wireless programs in the U.S., including cellular and paging licenses, as well as those licenses designated for emergency services like police and fire departments.

As the demand for cellular phones and pagers mushroomed, the WTB decided it needed to make changes. Not only were hundreds of thousands of license applications received annually, but the 40 different licensing forms in circulation had applicants frequently using the wrong form or entering incorrect information.

To streamline the system, the WTB formed a redevelopment project team, including FCC staff, its development contractors, Computech Inc. and Sybase Professional Services. In April 1997, they began a project to make the mainframe data for the 11 wireless service applications available on the World Wide Web to any applicant with a PC, modem and Web browser. This meant migrating from a mainframe to a new client/server-based system.

The new system is designed to handle current demands, and to be scalable enough to grow with the wireless communications industry. The Universal Licensing System was built with a Netscape Navigator 4.06-based front end linked to a Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise database. The Sybase Adaptive Enterprise Application Server was employed to allow reuse of existing Java components and
to create a highly scalable environment. These and several other Sybase data management tools were used to build and manage the databases, which are housed on Sun Microsystems Enterprise Servers. The client desktops are HP workstations.

In order to give applicants an easier way to access information about licenses and regions, MapInfo Professional is used to provide users with online maps of the markets where FCC licenses have been issued. Previously, users often had to hire a third-party consultant to collect this information.

The WTB estimates that the Universal Licensing System will reduce the total time applicants spend on paperwork by more than 700,000 hours annually. It will also save the FCC more than $1 million dollars a year in reduced maintenance alone.

-- Rich Seeley


Dorothy Conway

Judy Dunlap

David Furth

Ira Keltz

Roger Noel

Patricia Rinn

Mary Shultz

Karen Wrege

Streamlined applications that can be submitted electronically, saving both applicants and the FCC money. Online access to maps of markets and licenses, giving applicants better information quicker. More efficient processing of applications, allowing for faster turnaround times.


Sybase Corp. tools, including PowerBuilder, jConnect, PowerJ, WEB.SQL and CT-Lib/DB-Lib; Netscape Navigator 4.06; and MapInfo Corp.'s MapInfo Professional

Microsystems Enterprise Servers with HP

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.