FCC increases 3.45-3.55 GHz spectrum for 5G and local wireless services
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved the release of more mid-band spectrum for mobile broadband services. An additional 100 MHz in the 3.45-3.55 GHz range will be made available for 5G services, while 50 MHz in the 4.9 GHz range will be available for state licensing of local wireless services.
The release of the 3.5 GHz spectrum remains subject to public consultation. If approved, the frequencies would be available for flexible-use service. The public review seeks comment on an appropriate regime to coordinate non-federal and federal use and proposes a band plan, as well as technical, licensing and competitive bidding rules for the band. Lastly, it seeks comment on details regarding the processes for relocating non-federal radiolocation operators to the 2.9-3.0 GHz band and sunsetting amateur use in the 3.3-3.5 GHz band.
Today’s FCC announcement follows last month’s by the White House and Department of Defense (DoD) that 100 megahertz of contiguous mid-band spectrum would be made available in the 3450-3550 MHz band for 5G commercial use while simultaneously minimizing impact to DoD operations.
With this 3.45 GHz band item, the upcoming December C-band auction of 280 megahertz of spectrum, and the recently completed auction for Priority Access Licenses in the 3.5 GHz band, the Commission is on track to make a wide swath of 530 megahertz of continuous mid-band spectrum available for 5G. Combined with the Commission’s work to make low- and high-band spectrum available for flexible use as well as its successful efforts to expedite the deployment of wireless infrastructure and fibe Federal Communications Commission r, the FCC is establishing a strong foundation for wireless innovation and investment and helping the United States lead the world in 5G.
The additional spectrum for 5G is made possible by an agreement earlier this year with the Department of Defense to vacate the 3.45-3.55 GHz range. This adds to the 3.55-3.65 GHz range just auctioned and the 3.7-3.98 GHz band planned for the FCC December auction.
The FCC said the latest announcement means that a total of 530 MHz in the range 3.45-3.98 GHz is set for release for 5G services.
Under the new rules for the 4940-4990 MHz frequency range, states are allowed to lease this spectrum to third parties to boost wireless broadband, improve critical infrastructure monitoring, and facilitate public safety use cases. The frequencies are currently designated for public safety use, but are rarely used, and the FCC is hoping the new rules will increase applications of the spectrum.
The rules adopted establish a framework for states to allow new partnerships with electric utilities, AT&T FirstNet and commercial operators to increase usage of this spectrum, while protecting existing public safety operations. The wider possibilities are expected also to contribute to more equipment for the band being developed, a problem that has limited the spectrum’s use to date.
Cecilia Sulhoff at (202) 418-0587, email: [email protected]
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Related: FCC votes to free up 4.9 GHz band for states despite public safety opposition
The 50 megahertz of spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band was designated for public safety use nearly 20 years ago, but only about 2% of eligible public safety entities pursued the means of using it. The under-investment in the band was blamed, in part, on the high cost of equipment.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the 4.9 GHz band became a story of spectrum “haves” – primarily in large cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle – and “have nots,” particularly in the smaller and rural jurisdictions that can’t afford to deploy in the band.
“’Under our new approach, we will allow a single state government entity to lease covered spectrum in this band while maintaining and protecting incumbent public safety licensees’ operations,” Pai said in prepared remarks. “We recognize the simple truth that what works for New York City may not make sense in rural West Virginia; therefore, we give lessors the right to choose what is best for citizens of their state: They can enter into leases with public safety and non-public safety entities alike.”
If an eligible state wants to lease its spectrum to FirstNet for use in its national public safety network, it can do so, he said. If a state wants to lease spectrum in less densely populated areas to a wireless internet service provider (WISP), an electric utility, or other critical infrastructure industry player and retain the spectrum in more densely populated areas, it can do that as well, he added.
He noted that some of the equipment that WISPs use to provide fixed wireless service may be easily tunable to the 4.9 GHz band frequencies, allowing them to quickly and affordably deploy in rural and underserved areas. He also added that this new approach is supported by groups as diverse as New America’s Open Technology Institute, the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, the Washington Policy Center and the Pelican Center for Technology and Innovation.
Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who’s term at the commission is ending this year, said the 4.9 GHz band is vastly under-utilized, and not by just a little bit. While he supports public safety, no commission should let spectrum essentially lay fallow based on the notion that some day, “the allocation just might possibly be used … for its intended purposes.”
Specifically, the FCC’s action permits one statewide 4.9 GHz band licensee per state to lease some or all of its spectrum rights to third parties – including commercial and public safety users – in those states that the FCC has not identified as a diverter of 911 fees. The Report and Order also does not limit or modify the rights of any incumbent public safety licensees, so they will be able to continue to provide existing services, according to the FCC.
Adding to the comment about the 4.9 GHz band, the FCC allowed granted temporary waivers this Spring to WISPs to use the band used by DSRC (Dedicated Short-Range Communications) to bring broadband on an emergency basis to otherwise unserved households. This band, set aside 20-years ago for connected automobiles, hasn’t really moved past testing and pilots. Meantime, WiFi has exploded.
In this online discussion last April, at around 27:48 in the video, Richard Berndhart of WISPA touches upon how WISPs took advantage of that spectrum to bring broadband to unserved areas.
It is unfortunate that the amateur radio allocation is being dismembered this way, all in the name of faster TikTok and Facebook. We’ve become a society of users, not innovators, with corporations feeding our addictions in the name of shareholder profits. Our best and brightest are no more; there is no motivation to learn and experiment.
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