The Trump administration announced today that the White House and the Department of Defense have concluded that the 3450-3550 megahertz band can be shared with wireless carriers nationwide at full commercial power levels, and an official suggested that the FCC would be able to auction the spectrum beginning in December 2021 and that carriers could begin using it in the middle of 2022.
Pursuant to the MOBILE NOW Act, which became law in 2018 (TR Daily, March 23, 2018), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and DoD have been analyzing the feasibility of allowing commercial wireless services to share use of the broader 3.1-3.55 gigahertz band, which is used by military radar systems and some Department of Homeland Security radars.
NTIA released a report last month that cited the difficulty of sharing spectrum with federal operations below the 3.45 GHz band, while calling the 3.45-3.55 GHz band a “good candidate” for sharing (TR Daily, July 6).
“DoD operates high-powered defense radar systems on fixed, mobile, shipborne, and airborne platforms throughout the [3.1-3.55 GHz] band for air defense, missile and gunfire control, bomb scoring, battlefield weapon locations, air traffic control, and range safety,” the report noted. “DHS operations are limited to fixed and transportable radars … to track unmanned aeronautical vehicles.”
During a call with reporters this afternoon, senior administration officials discussed a process that the White House and DoD put together in April—America’s Mid-Band Initiative Team (AMBIT), to focus on making additional 3 GHz band spectrum available for use by wireless carriers. The effort was aided by 180 subject matter experts from DoD as well as by the analysis conducted pursuant to the MOBILE NOW Act, an official said.
The steps officials had to go through to assess whether sharing was possible were similar to the process used to enable sharing of the adjacent Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), an official said.
“The timeline that we’re working with is absolutely unprecedented,” a senior administration official said. “We’re shaving off, you know, two-thirds, at least, of the time that’s generally required to do … something like this.”
The sharing arrangement will look at the “operational needs” of DoD for functions such as training and readiness, an official said.
“Throughout this process, the Trump Administration has worked carefully to ensure that commercial use of this critically needed mid-band spectrum will never compromise military preparedness or national security,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.
U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios said the FCC would be able to auction the spectrum in December 2021 and it would be available for use by carriers in the middle of 2022. He said that full commercial power levels would be permitted nationwide.
The additional 100 MHz of spectrum would provide contiguous channels from the 3450-3980 MHz for 5G networks, including 280 MHz of the C-band that the FCC plans to auction in December, stressed DoD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy. He said that rules for the spectrum would be similar to those governing the AWS-3 band, adding that it would be available “without limits.”
Officials said they would continue to assess the availability of spectrum for sharing lower in the band.
“We will continue to look at all spectrum across the entire range,” a senior administrator said, referring to the 3.1-3.45 GHz band. “The reason we selected this [3450-3550 MHz band] spectrum was the collective goal of both the White House and the DoD” to see “what spectrum could be made available with almost immediate use … that would meet the needs of industry as well as the needs of DoD. This particular range, from an operational standpoint, was well-suited for us to meet that goal. As we go down lower in the spectrum – obviously there are operational needs of the DoD – … what has to be done to make that available becomes much more complex.”
“I commend the President and Department of Defense for today’s announcement that the 3.45-3.55 GHz band will be made available for commercial 5G deployment,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “This is a key milestone in securing United States leadership in 5G. I also would like to thank FCC staff for their work to help create a framework that will promote 5G service in this important band. Together with the spectrum being made available for 5G in the C-band as well as the 3.5 GHz band, we are now on track to have a 530-megahertz swath of mid-band spectrum available for 5G from 3.45 to 3.98 GHz. The FCC looks forward to moving quickly to adopt service rules for the 3.45 GHz band and then hold an auction to bring this prime mid-band spectrum to market.”
The agency did not respond to a request for comment on the timeline mentioned by Mr. Kratsios for auctioning the spectrum and licensing it to carriers.
“Details to examine but this should be considered a good development for 5G and overall spectrum policy,” tweeted Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who has complained that DoD abruptly backed off of agreeing to relinquish the 3450-3550 MHz band and instead studied sharing it. He also has said that DoD has dragged its feet on studying the feasibility of freeing up at least some of the rest of the band.
“Good news. We’re behind on bringing mid-band to market, we need all the help we can get,” said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
The wireless industry also welcomed today’s announcement.
“Opening up this critical block of mid-band spectrum for full power commercial operations will enhance U.S. competitiveness in the 5G ecosystem. We applaud the White House and Pentagon for finding ways to promote our nation’s leadership of the emerging 5G economy while safeguarding vital defense operations,” said CTIA President and Chief Executive Officer Meredith Attwell Baker.
Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas, said, “We are pleased that the White House has led the Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to support commercial access in the upper 100 MHz of the 3.1-3.55 GHZ band, at full commercial power. Mid-band spectrum, including 3.45 -3.55 GHz, is important for the deployment of 5G in the United States. Many countries around the world have agreed on spectrum from 3.3 – 3.8 GHz to provide both capacity and coverage for 5G deployments.
“5G Americas is encouraged that the White House is urging the Federal Communications Commission to issue a proposed rulemaking as soon as possible on licensed commercial access to the band, to auction more mid-band spectrum for 5G next year, so that Americans can realize the full potential of 5G services and applications,” Mr. Pearson added.
Claude Aiken, president and CEO of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), said, “WISPA is greatly encouraged by this news. Spectrum is finite, and it must be shared if Americans are to gain the full benefits of wireless broadband. The CBRS band shows that a viable framework can be employed to do so – one which both protects national security and allows for commercial use. We want to thank all involved for working through the numerous complex technical arrangements to make available this valuable mid-band spectrum. This sharing will benefit Americans, keeping them safe on the home front, and providing more of the fuel providers and the industry need to bring broadband to hungry consumers.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]
MainStory: FCC FederalNews SpectrumAllocation WirelessDeployment
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