FCC Chairman Proposes Steps For More 5G Spectrum

On Tuesday, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai proposed steps to make 3.45 to 3.55 GHz broadband spectrum available for commercial use in the United States; if approved and adopted, this range of mid-band spectrum would be available for commercial 5G usage. The proposal comes after the FCC issued a statement regarding the White House and Department of Defense’s announcement that they would make this band available for 5G services.

“We are moving forward quickly, in coordination with the Executive Branch, to ensure that this mid-band spectrum is available for commercial 5G deployment. This is another major step forward in advancing American leadership in 5G and producing benefits for America’s wireless consumers,” FCC Chairman Pai said. “Our 5G FAST Plan is in full swing. With this 3.45 GHz band proposal, the upcoming 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 our work to make low- and high-band spectrum available for flexible use as well as our successful efforts to expedite the deployment of wireless infrastructure and fiber, we are establishing a strong foundation for wireless innovation and investment. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this important item at our monthly meeting.”

If the Chairman’s proposal is adopted, it would help the Commission work towards Congress’s instructions in the MOBILE NOW Act to make new spectrum available for flexible use and to work with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration within the Department of Commerce to determine the feasibility of commercial use of the band. This would also include a report and order to “remove the secondary, non-federal allocations from the 3.3-3.55 GHz band,” as previously proposed by the FCC.

Specifically, the order would “eliminate non-federal radiolocation service in the 3.3-3.55 GHz band and the non-federal amateur allocation in the 3.3-3.55 GHz band but allow incumbent licensees to continue operating in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band until a future date”; “relocate non-federal radiolocation licensees to the 2.9-3.0 GHz band, allowing them to continue operating on a secondary basis to federal operations, consistent with current allocations”; and “allow amateur licensees to individually determine appropriate alternative spectrum from existing available spectrum allocations.”

The proposal was accompanied by a further notice of proposed rulemaking, which seeks comments on proposed changes to the rules that govern broadband in order to allow commercial use of the bands and cooperation between federal and non-federal entities, along with the “appropriate regime to coordinate non-federal and federal use,” “how to relocate non-federal radiolocation operators to the 2.9-3.0 GHz band,” and on the “process for sunsetting amateur use in the 3.3-3.55 GHz band. Additionally, it will propose “a band plan and technical, licensing, and competitive bidding rules for the band” as well as adding a “co-primary, non-federal fixed and mobile (except aeronautical mobile) allocation to the band.”

This proposal will be discussed at the FCC’s September 30 Open Meeting.