FCC Opens 6-Month Tribal Window for 2.5 MHz Spectrum

The FCC has opened the priority filing window to tribes and Alaska Native Villages, the first of its kind, for spectrum in the 5G band, and it will last six months. Those tribes and villages can get free spectrum before any commercial auction of the spectrum for wireless. 

The window closes Aug. 3. 

Related: FCC to Free Up 2.5GHz for 5G 

"This is the first time in the FCC’s history that we have ever given Tribal entities a priority window to obtain spectrum licenses for wireless broadband. I hope that they will take advantage of it," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

A politically divided FCC voted last July to convert the 2.5 GHz band from one reserved for educational (EBS) licenses to flexible licenses that can be used for 5G, and to auction current unassigned spectrum (white spaces) in the band. 

The Democrats on the FCC saw the sunsetting of the EBS-controlled band as an abdication of an important educational mission, and strongly dissented on that part of the item. The Republicans said they were putting dramatically underused spectrum to its highest, best use--5G--and reforming "arcane" rules. 

One thing the Democrats did support was giving the tribal communities a priority window to obtain unassigned spectrum to serve tribal lands--the only part they approved. House Democrats had been concerned that an initial 60-day window was not enough time and made that concern known.

The FCC had said in the Report and Order that several tribal entities had suggested that 60-day application window, but did not declare it a done deal, saying instead it would leave that call to the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. 

John Eggerton

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.