FCC Moves Ahead on 5G | Citizens Against Government Waste

FCC Moves Ahead on 5G

The WasteWatcher

The decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today on its report and order to expand the flexible use of the c-band spectrum will help the United States is essential to the country’s efforts to remain ahead of China on 5G deployment.  While the path to this decision was not easy, the FCC did a great job of balancing the public interest of generating more mid-band spectrum necessary for 5G against the desires of incumbent satellite owners to be compensated and incentivized to vacate and relocate from the spectrum they currently use.

The c-band proposal has provided the necessary relocation costs to existing incumbents, including c-band FSS users, incumbent space station operators, and incumbent earth station operators by using the FCC’s emerging technologies framework, and made spectrum available for 5G. 

The report and order sets a firm deadline of September 30, 2025 by which relocation and vacating the spectrum is to be accomplished.  To meet that deadline, the incumbent satellite owners must agree to relocate their services from the lower portion to the upper portion of the c-band.  The proposal gives satellite owners the option to clear 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3.7-3.8 GHz range by September 30, 2021 (Phase I) and clear the remaining 180 MHz of spectrum in the 3.8-3.98 GHz range by September 30, 2023 (Phase II).  This brings the timeline to free up this critical spectrum to three years instead of five. 

To incentivize the satellite owners to meet these accelerated deadlines, the FCC is proposing to provide them with an additional Accelerated Relocation Payment (ARP) under the same emerging technologies framework that permits the agency to require winning auction bidders to pay reasonable incumbent relocation costs.  If the spectrum can be cleared by the Phase I and Phase II deadlines, the FCC has indicated that a $9.7 billion ARP would be distributed among the five eligible space station operators (Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat, Telesat, and Star One) noting this is “reasonable and will serve the public interest.”  The satellite owners will have the ability to pre-draw from the ARP funds to relocate their services at an accelerated rate, and if they fail to meet the deadlines for Phase I and Phase II, they will be required to reimburse the proceeds back into the fund.

Mid-band spectrum is critical to deploying next generation services using 5G.  The FCC also agreed to adopt the structure of Auction 107 of this critical spectrum which will commence on December 8, 2020, offering up 14 20 MHz blocks of spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band. We agree with the FCC that it is in the country’s best interest and the need to win the race to 5G to accelerate the relocation of the band.

Citizens Against Government Waste will continue to closely monitor both of these proceedings.

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