FCC Works Through the Mid-Band Spectrum | Citizens Against Government Waste

FCC Works Through the Mid-Band Spectrum

The WasteWatcher

On July 12, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to adopt an Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Expanding Flexible Use of the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz Band (GN Docket No. 18-122).

As noted by the 147 filings already received in this proceeding, there is strong interest across the communications industry in how this proceeding will evolve including broadcasters, cable operators, engineers, mobile telecommunications companies, and satellite companies.  One might wonder why there is such a strong interest in this specific spectrum proceeding.  The mid-band spectrum in the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz band, also known as the C-band, is exceptionally valuable.  Making mid-band spectrum available for use by the mobile industry would close the gap between low-band spectrum that has been made available for 5G networks, and the upcoming high-band millimeter wave bands that are anticipated to be made available soon. 

The importance of moving forward with 5G technology cannot be overstated.  As observed by FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, deploying 5G across the country could add 3 million new jobs, $275 billion in private sector network investments, and result in $500 billion being added to the GDP.   However, making the mid-band spectrum available for 5G networks is not going to be an easy task.  The filing from the National Broadcasters Association (NAB) states, “Virtually every American who listens to the radio or watches television relies on the ubiquitous, reliable coverage the C-band provides.  Changes to the way the C-band is used may have significant unintended consequences for the content distribution architecture on which consumers currently rely.”

The Broadband Access Coalition has suggested a few ways to clarify and improve the draft order and NPRM by creating granularity on non-interference rules with existing point-to-multipoint services, so that consumers in rural America would have access to mid-band spectrum for 5G services, while protecting registered Fixed Satellite Service earth stations from harmful interference.  However, T-Mobile has advised that, “Designating a band for a particular wireless use – such as point-to-multipoint services would require the Commission to pick technology winners and losers.  As the wireless industry rapidly evolves, designating spectrum for a specific application risks the Commission’s decision becoming almost immediately out of date.”

It is important that consideration be provided to existing incumbents within the C-band as this proceeding moves forward.  FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly made this point very clear during the July 12 meeting, when he stated, “any reallocation must fully protect the incumbent contractees that currently use the C-band to bring many services to consumers.  From my perspective, any final proposal that doesn’t do that will be close to a non-starter.  That does not mean they all must be accommodated on remaining C-band spectrum, but their ability to offer services cannot be disrupted.”

Access to the mid-band spectrum will be critical toward moving 5G wireless deployment forward to help bridge the digital divide in rural America, and the FCC’s proceeding is critical to making that access occur.  However, the commission should not push out one technology or industry in favor of another.

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