FCC to Vote on 3.5 GHz Framework

The FCC will launch its latest effort to free up 5G spectrum at its Sept. 26 open meeting.

That is according to FCC chair Ajit Pai. The FCC has conducted two spectrum auctions this year, with a third planned to begin in December.

He said at that September meeting, the FCC will vote on a draft framework for auctioning 70 MHz of the 3.5 GHz band.

Commissioner Michael O'Rielly led the effort to update the technical rules for the band to encourage 5G deployment.

The FCC voted 3-1 along party lines Oct. 23, 2018, to change the rules on licenses for the 3.5 GHz (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) band to make it more attractive for providers of 5G, which includes cable ops looking to up their mobile broadband game.

The move was billed as targeted changes to spur investment in the band and promote more efficient use, including for 5G. The main adjustments were the decision to increase the sizes of priority access licenses (PALs) from census tracts to the larger county-sized licenses, though Pai pointed out that was a compromise from the larger partial economic area (PEA) licenses some had advocated for.

The CBRS band is a mix of PAL licenses and general authorized access (GAA) unlicensed use.

The FCC also extended the license terms from 3 to 10 years and added a presumption of renewal. All things the FCC majority said made the band more attractive to investors and bidders for the spectrum licenses in an upcoming auction.

The FCC is also making it easier to sell the PAL licenses in the secondary market. The item also includes rules to support wider bandwidth channels while maintaining interference protections, which the commission said would provide certainty and stability for broader deployments in the band by an array of users.

NCTA-The Internet & Television Association strongly supports making the band more attractive for 5G.

The FCC is ready to start auctioning that 5G spectrum next year (June 25, 2020). 

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.