FCC Sets Early October for 3.5 GHZ Band 5G Auction

Exterior of the FCC building in Washington, D.C.
(Image credit: FCC)

The FCC has tentatively set next October for its auction of spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band for 5G.

Congress had mandated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act that the FCC come up with a system of competitive bidding for the spectrum by the end of this year.

Acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said Tuesday (Feb. 23) she has circulated a draft order on a framework for the auction and freeing up the "much-needed" midband spectrum for 5G.

Also Read: DOD Agrees to Share Midband Spectrum

She plans a vote on the item at the March 17 meeting, and following the lead of her predecessor, Ajit Pai, will make the draft order public (she said by Wednesday), along with other items planned for a vote at that meeting.

“We need to deliver the 5G that the American people were promised," said Rosenworcel. "That means a 5G that is fast, secure, resilient, and—most importantly—available across the country. This important auction is a crucial step toward making that a reality. ... 5G will foster new economic activity, unlocking an estimated 4.5 million new jobs and adding $1.5 trillion in economic growth. ... I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this proposal.”

The FCC item would allocate the 3.45-3.55 GHz band for flexible use, complete the relocation of non-federal commercial users and sunset amateur use of the 3.3-3.5 GHz band. 

Among the bills the Consolidated Appropriations Act consolidated last year was the Beat China by Harnessing Important, National Airwaves (CHINA) for 5G Act of 2020, which directed the clearing of government users from the 3.5 GHz band so the FCC can auction it for 5G.

The White House and Department of Defense officials last August announced that they had identified 100 MHz of midband spectrum (between 3450 and 3550 GHz) currently used by DOD for key radar applications, that could be freed up quickly for sharing with commercial 5G without sacrificing national security or military uses, specifically critical radar for air defense, missile and gun control, battlefield weapon locations, air traffic control and more.

“CTIA and its members applaud today’s announcement by Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel that the Commission will be voting to take quick and efficient action to bring the 3.45 GHz band to auction, with a draft Order and Auction Public Notice that boldly seek to launch the auction well in advance of the statutory deadline," said CTIA president Meredith Attwell Baker, whose members will be among those looking to bid on the 5G Spectrum. "Making more mid-band spectrum available for 5G services will boost wireless innovation and deployment, fueling our 5G Economy and helping close the digital divide.”

“I am proud of the legwork the FCC and our partners across the federal government have put in to open up this 100 MHz of mid-band spectrum, and I am pleased that the Commission will now vote on the steps needed to auction off these airwaves this year," said commissioner Brendan Carr, pointing out that the FCC under chairman Ajit Pai worked with NTIA to identify the 100 MHZ of midband spectrum and launched the rulemaking proceeding that the FCC is closing the loop on on March 17. "I look forward to reviewing the draft decision and working with my colleagues to ensure that it maximizes opportunities for 5G in the U.S., including by authorizing full power commercial operations," he said.

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.