Chairman Pai Unveiling Plan to Open 100 MHz Contiguous 5G Band

Randy Sukow


The FCC expects to vote at the end of this month on a plan to open the 3.45-3.55 GHz band for commercial use. The Commission said that it would release a draft of the Report & Order tomorrow (Sept. 9) in preparation for a vote during the next scheduled FCC agenda meeting on Sept. 30.

The plan follows through on an executive order President Trump signed last month calling for the military to share the 3.45-3.55 GHz band with commercial users, creating 100 MHz of contiguous mid-band spectrum to accommodate 5G and internet of things applications. The Commission also indicated that the plan will work toward satisfying the requirements of the MOBILE NOW Act, the 2018 law that calls for the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration to work together to find “at least 255 MHz of federal and nonfederal spectrum” for mobile technologies.

“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,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a press release (PDF). “Combined with our work to make low- and high-band spectrum available for flexible use as well as our successful efforts to expedite the deployment of wireless infrastructure and fiber, we are establishing a strong foundation for wireless innovation and investment.”

Update, Sept. 10: The FCC has released the draft (PDF) of the Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking tentatively set for a Sept. 30 vote. In addition to an order opening the 3.45-3.55 GHz band to commercial users and specifying details for federal/commercial sharing, the document proposes further actions, including setting “flexible use” rules in the band to encourage 5G deployments.

The Commission also released a draft proceeding to open 50 MHz in the 4.9 GHz band (4940-4990 MHz) for public safety/commercial sharing. The FCC allocated the band to public safety users nearly 20 years ago. However, it has issued only 3,559 out of a potential 9,000 licenses in the band nationwide. The new order would eliminate a current rule restricting leasing in the band to other public safety organizations and would allow leasing to commercial and other third-party organizations.

In a blog post, Chairman Ajit Pai specified that electric utilities are among the eligible third parties the order would qualify for 4.9 GHz leases. “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.

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