FCC to Consider Mid-Band Item at July 12 Meeting
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

FCC to Consider Mid-Band Item at July 12 Meeting

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced today that he will ask his fellow Commissioners to consider at their July 12 meeting the next item in the agency’s mid-band proceeding “to make more intensive use” of the 3.7–4.2 gigahertz C-band.

In a keynote speech this morning at the 2018 Connectivity Expo, which was organized by the Wireless Infrastructure Association, Mr. Pai noted that the FCC last year “agreed to explore repurposing more mid-band spectrum, including the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz band, commonly called the ‘C band.’ We have done a lot of work on this issue in the time since — enough so that I’m pleased to announce today that at the FCC’s July meeting, I intend to put up for a vote a proposal to make more intensive use of that 500 MHz of spectrum, including seeking additional input on making it available for commercial terrestrial use.”

After his speech, Mr. Pai declined when asked by TR Daily to elaborate on details of the planned item.

Last summer, the FCC adopted a notice of inquiry to explore freeing up frequencies between 3.7 GHz and 24 GHz for 5G services (TR Daily, Aug. 3, 2017). The NOI solicited comment on three specific bands: the 3.7–4.2 GHz and 5.925-6.425 GHz bands (which are known as the conventional C-band), and the 6.425–7.125 GHz band. It also sought views on other non-federal mid-band frequencies.

The proceeding has pitted a variety of interests against each other, including wireless carriers, satellite interests, cable TV providers and broadcasters, tech companies, fixed wireless interests, and public safety entities.

Regarding the C-band, several satellite providers and Intel Corp. are pushing a market-based proposal for freeing up 100 megahertz of spectrum in the band for terrestrial use.

The Broadband Access Coalition (BAC), which has asked the FCC to adopt regulations to create a new licensed, point-to-multipoint (P2MP) fixed wireless service in the 3.7–4.2 GHz band, says the FCC should adopt rules that combine its proposal for use of the 3.7–4.2 GHz band with that of the market-based proposal.

Also, an ad hoc coalition that calls itself the Mid-Band Spectrum Coalition is seeking access to the 3.7–4.2 GHz band for licensed mobile services and to the 6 GHz band spectrum for unlicensed usage.

“CTIA and the wireless industry agree with Chairman Pai that securing U.S. global leadership in 5G is imperative for our economy. Repurposing mid-band spectrum to spur America’s 5G leadership against nations like China and South Korea will be a critical part of this effort, and we encourage the FCC to open up the 3.7–4.2 GHz band for commercial terrestrial use as quickly as possible,” Scott Bergmann, senior vice president-regulatory affairs for CTIA, said of Mr. Pai’s announcement today.

In his speech this morning, Mr. Pai noted other steps that the FCC has taken to free up spectrum for 5G services, including making millimeter-wave frequencies available in its spectrum frontiers proceeding.

Mr. Pai told TR Daily after his speech that he hopes the FCC can act “in the near future” in its 3.5 GHz band proceeding. He noted that he is awaiting recommendations from Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who is the point person for the proceeding.

Most of the Chairman’s speech centered on activities to streamline the deployment of wireless and other telecom infrastructure.

He noted that the FCC has exempted small cells from historic preservation and environmental reviews (TR Daily, March 22), proposed a Program Comment to address “twilight” towers (TR Daily, Dec. 14, 2017), and made it easier to install replacement utility poles by exempting such deployments from historic review when they replace substantially identical poles (TR Daily, Nov. 16, 2017).

Mr. Pai said the FCC is working to forward the draft twilight tower Program Comment to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which would have to approve it.

“Looking ahead, we’re taking a close look at how state and local regulations impact wireless infrastructure deployment,” Mr. Pai noted. “As we examine this issue, we’ll need to figure out the best way to address competing concerns. On one hand, we want to remove unreasonable barriers to installing the infrastructure that drives the mobile revolution, in a manner consistent with federal law. On the other, we need to respect the legitimate interests of states and localities. In short, it’s important that we strike the right balance here. I look forward to receiving Commissioner [Brendan] Carr’s recommendations on how we should do that.”

Mr. Carr is the point person at the FCC on wireless infrastructure issues.

Mr. Pai also observed that “5G infrastructure isn’t just about small cells; it’s also about backhaul. Densified networks will require much more fiber. On that front, we’ve launched a separate initiative to remove barriers to wireline broadband deployment. For instance, we’re trying to make it easier and cheaper to attach equipment to utility poles. And just last week, I announced that we’ll vote June 7 on letting companies discontinue outdated, legacy services and transition to the networks of the future [TR Daily, May 17]. This is good for residential customers, of course. But it’s also vital for backhaul.” —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

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