Pai Accelerates FAST 5G Plan, Cable Rule Changes

(Image credit: Dong Wenjie via Getty Images)

From its aggressive 5G deployment plan and a proposal to eliminate cable TV administrative paperwork – with additional action on robocalls, foreign ownership and IP calling services - the Federal Communications Commission intends to cover a lot of turf at its Sept. 30 monthly Open Meeting. The agenda, unveiled Wednesday, will focus on the spectrum re-allocation, including shared use of mid-band channels for government and commercial applications.  

The Sept. 30 line-up also includes two Media Bureau items dealing with carriage changes and reporting requirements, described here.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s vision to reassign 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for commercial 5G will top the agenda for the Commission’s Sept. 30 Open Meeting. 

Even before the agenda was issued on Wednesday, Pai shared a draft proposal that, he said, “would take decisive steps toward making the 3.45-3.55 GHz band available for commercial use” throughout the contiguous United States.  Pai shared his plan in a message late Tuesday to the other Commissioners, explaining that the plan was coordinated with the Executive Branch. The Defense Department and the White House agreed last month that the spectrum, now used for key radar applications, could be freed up quickly to share with commercial 5G without sacrificing national security or military uses.

Citing his “5G FAST Plan” (“Facilitate America's Superiority in 5G Technology”), Pai said, “We are moving forward quickly … to ensure that this mid-band spectrum is available for commercial 5G deployment. He called it “another major step forward in advancing American leadership in 5G.”

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking includes a call for comments regarding use of the spectrum to enable commercial use and coordination between federal and non-federal users.

If adopted, the plan “would be an important step toward satisfying Congress’s directive in the MOBILE NOW Act to make new spectrum available for flexible use,” Pai added. He said the FCC will coordinate with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration about the feasibility of allowing commercial use in this band. 

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 “Our 5G FAST Plan is in full swing,” Pai said. “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.”  Citing related low- and high-band spectrum flexible use plans and “efforts to expedite the deployment of wireless infrastructure and fiber,” Pai said that, “We are establishing a strong foundation for wireless innovation and investment.”

CTIA, 5G Action Now Embrace Pai’s Plan

CTIA - the Wireless Association quickly praised Pai's plan. Scott Bergmann, CTIA's senior VP, regulatory affairs, focused on Pai's "successful 5G FAST Plan to make more mid-band spectrum available for commercial 5G services.”

“Quick delivery of exclusive use mid-band spectrum is critical to fueling our transition to a new, 5G economy," Bergmann said. “We thank the FCC and Administration for recognizing this urgent need.”

5G Action Now Chairman Mike Rogers, the former Congressman who now heads the aggressive 5G lobbying group, called Pai’s proposal “another critical step toward ensuring that American innovation unleashes the full potential of this next generation communication’s capability.”

Rogers joined the international competitive choir, saying, “We need to do everything we can to ensure that it is America, and not China, that defines the 5G future for our country.”

Also Overhauling 4.9 GHz Public Safety Band with State Oversight

In his fantasy football-themed blog on Tuesday that preceded the release of the Sept. 30 agenda, Pai also previewed his game plan “to make better use of the 4.9 GHz band.”

His proposal will give states the opportunity to lease 4.9 GHz band spectrum to commercial entities, electric utilities, and others.

“This market-driven path will protect public safety incumbent operations while providing states the flexibility to use the spectrum to boost wireless broadband, improve critical infrastructure monitoring, or facilitate new public safety use cases that meet the unique challenges and geographies of each state,” Pai said.

“Way back in 2002, the FCC designated 50 megahertz of contiguous spectrum in that band for public safety use,” he explained. “Unfortunately, only about 3.5% of potential licensees — less than 1 out of 25 — have actually taken advantage of this spectrum,” he continued, acknowledging “the unusual licensing framework which allows bandwidth sharing by ad-hoc coordination to avoid interference.”

Last month, the newly formed Public Safety Spectrum Alliance (PSSA) debuted with a call for allocation of 50 MHz in the 4.9 GHz spectrum to the FirstNet Authority.

Foreign Ownership, Robocalls and Captioned Telephone Pricing, Too

The FCC’s Sept. 30 agenda will also include a look at the “Transparency and Timeliness of Foreign Ownership” reviews. The Commission intends to improve the process by which it seeks the views of the Executive Branch, security, law enforcement and foreign policy (including trade) agencies when it is handling applications from foreign companies or individuals – an increasingly complex factor in the global communications ecosystem.

A proposal to combat spoofed robocalls and a revision of compensation rates for Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) are also on the Sept. 30 agenda. 

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.