Skip to main content

Wheeler Drafts 3.5 GHz Sharing Regime

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Friday (March 27) he circulated a draft order that would open up the 3.5 GHz band to spectrum sharing. He will definitely have support from fellow Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel, who has pushed the FCC to "mine" spectrum in that band. (

Wheeler has dubbed 3.5 GHz a potential "innovation band."

A year ago, the FCC proposed creating a new sharing regime it dubbed the Citizens Broadband Radio service, which was another way of saying freeing up underused spectrum with federal users through sharing. (

In a blog post, Wheeler outlined the draft, calling it a "three-tiered sharing paradigm": The lowest tier will be open to anyone with an FCC-licensed device and to commercial users at no cost, similar to unlicensed bands. The second, "priority access" tier will require paying for short-term licenses at auction that will provide interference protection from first-tier users. The third tier will include incumbent federal and commercial radar and satellite users, who will receive protection from interference from the other two tiers.

The FCC will use cloud computing technology to coordinate the various tiers and users. "Long gone are the days of an engineer working with pencil and protractor (not to mention pocket protector) to coordinate users into a band," quipped Wheeler.

Initially the FCC planned large buffer zones around military radar users of the band, but Wheeler said that those have been reduced and potentially even eliminated.