The FCC unanimously voted today to seek further comment on ways to free up spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, also called the C-Band, for 5G.
The Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that the commission adopted identifies new opportunities for flexible use in up to 500 megahertz of midband spectrum between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz. The commission is also seeking more details on the current satellite users in the band.
The 3.7-4.2 GHz band is currently used by satellite companies that in turn serve entities like NPR and Comcast in distributing programming to millions of Americans. One of the options for clearing the spectrum is a proposal by satellite companies that would have them forming a consortium to work with 5G operators to free up spectrum, but the order adopted today will look at multiple strategies for clearing the spectrum.
rue to character, Chairman Ajit Pai referenced the 1975 summer blockbuster “Jaws” in his prepared comments, where one of the characters says they’re going to “need a bigger boat.” That’s what he said the FCC is figuratively providing today by seeking ways to unleash more spectrum.
To help figure out the way forward, the FCC is seeking comment on a variety of proposals, including on ways to open some or all of the C-Band for terrestrial wireless use and for reallocating current users, with the intent of unleashing a lot more spectrum.
ommissioner Brendan Carr noted that the C-Band encompasses 500 MHz of midband spectrum that some believe is prime for 5G deployment and flagged the notice’s section on the market-based mechanism for clearing the spectrum. That option would authorize incumbents to clear on a voluntary basis all or nearly all of the band and allow them to engage in secondary market transactions.
“In my view, this could provide the quickest path to clearing the spectrum, and it could do so without the inevitable issues that arrive when the commission begins imposing mandates and repurposing the spectrum itself,” he said.
Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who has spent considerable time on the midband issues, said it became clear to him more than two years ago that a global shift in spectrum had occurred and the world was eyeing midband spectrum for 5G. Thus, it became vital for the U.S. to have a serious midband play to complement the low and high-band spectrum it was making available.