FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is exiting with a spectral flourish, not only presiding over the FCC's biggest and most successful auction of midband spectrum--the C-Band at almost $70 billion in gross proceeds and counting--but circulating an item looking to open up even more midband spectrum for 5G.
On Dec. 23, the chairman circulated a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the other commissioners to review and vote on "Expanding Flexible Use of the 12.2-12.7 GHz Band, et al., WT Docket No. 20-443, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking." The NPRM is responding to a 2016 petition by the MVDSS 5G Coalition.
Various groups had called on the FCC to look at opening up that 500 MHz for shared use.
There are no tentative conclusions in the NPRM. Rather, it seeks input on whether and how to allow terrestrial use while protecting incumbent users.
The band is currently used for DBS, fixed satellite service multichannel video distribution, and data service (MVDDS). All are co-primary, but DBS must be protected from interference.
The NPRM seeks comment on:
1. "Whether to add a mobile service allocation throughout the 12 GHz band.
2. "Technical parameters that would allow for additional terrestrial shared use of the band without causing harmful interference to incumbent operators.
3. "Possible methods for assigning flexible-use rights in the band, including:
a) "Modifying the licenses of existing MVDDS licensees to grant them flexible-use rights,
b) "Auctioning overlay licenses in the band, or
c) "Authorizing underlay use of the band.
4. "Potential sharing mechanisms for the band, if coexistence among the co-primary services and proposed flexible-use service is technically feasible.
5. "Whether the costs of accommodating new services in the band exceed the benefits and whether the Commission should therefore maintain the status quo for the 12 GHz band."
"We applaud FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's decision to put a 12 GHz Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on circulation," said V. Noah Campbell, CEO or RS Access, which was founded in 2018 to acquire 12 GHz spectrum for networks. "This action moves the U.S. one step closer to unleashing the 12 GHz band, which will supercharge 5G deployment throughout the country for next-generation mobile broadband services.
"A notice-and-comment rulemaking demonstrates the FCC's clear support for exploring how 12 GHz can nearly double the nationwide availability of mid-band spectrum while catapulting the U.S. to a lead position in telecom competitiveness globally. The 500 MHz of contiguous, terrestrially licensed spectrum between 12.2 and 12.7 GHz represents the FCC's greatest opportunity to meet exploding demand for mobile broadband."
“The current rules governing the 12 GHz Band are outdated, inefficient, and ripe for review in today’s 5G world," said Dish executive VP of external and legislative affairs Jeff Blum. "Dish, along with other 12 GHz license holders, public interest groups and trade associations, have called for the review of these antiquated rules, and we thank the Commission for circulating a neutral NPRM. The 12 GHz band represents 500 megahertz of spectrum that is suited for terrestrial, two-way 5G use cases, while being able to protect DBS operations. We look forward to working with the Commission as it considers the NPRM to determine the best use of the band to further close the digital divide and advance our nation’s position in the race to 5G.”
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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