The 5G train is on the tracks and picking up speed at the FCC. Yesterday, the commission took steps to make sure it stays that way making more spectrum available in the mid-band and millimeter bands as a part of its “Facilitate America’s Superiority in 5G Technology (the 5G FAST Plan).”
The commission opened up the regulatory framework for spectrum currently known as Educational Broadband Service in the 2.5 GHz band, known as mid-band spectrum) making it available for advanced wireless services. Procedures were set for the Auction 103 of high-band, flexible-use licenses in the 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz spectrum bands, which will be the largest swathe of spectrum ever auctioned by the FCC. Licenses covering up to 3,400 megahertz will be offered.
NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway, said, “Industry access to spectrum ultimately equates to more deployment opportunities and NATE member companies stand ready to convert this valuable spectrum into action so that American businesses and consumers can experience the power and conveniences of a 5G-driven economy.”
With the demand for mid-band spectrum increasing for wireless broadband services, the commission opened the door to opportunities for other entities to access unused spectrum in 2.5 GHz band by eliminating restrictions on the types of entities that can hold licenses as well as educational use requirements. The mid-band spectrum offers the favorable coverage and capacity characteristics that carriers want for next-generation mobile services.
In a recent blog post, T-Mobile CEO John Legere noted the importance Sprint’s storehouse of 2.5 GHz spectrum to his carrier’s 5G plans. “Mid-band spectrum is key to providing an ideal mix of coverage and capacity for 5G networks, and the combination of Sprint’s mid-band and our low-band will allow New T-Mobile to use both spectrum blocks more efficiently, increasing capacity even more,” he wrote.
Auction of 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz Spectrum
The high-band spectrum, which will be auctioned Dec. 3, 2019, is suited for 5G, the Internet of Things, and other advanced spectrum-based services, according to the FCC.
Auction 103 is designed as an incentive auction that will provide incentive payments to existing 39 GHz licensees that relinquish their spectrum usage rights, increasing the amount of 39 GHz spectrum available for new licenses. The auction will offer licenses for 100-megahertz blocks of spectrum in Partial Economic Areas (PEA) through a clock phase and an assignment phase.
Mid-band Order Offers Opportunities for Tribal Nations, Small Wireless Providers
The 2.5 GHz order established a priority filing window for tribal nations to provide them with an opportunity to obtain unassigned spectrum in rural areas. The remaining spectrum will be auctioned off.
To maximize participation by small wireless service providers, the FCC adopted county-sized overlay licenses, a three-part band plan (two roughly 50-megahertz blocks and a 16.5-megahertz block), and bidding credits for small business, rural service providers and tribal lands.
Educational Broadband Service Serves Schools With Video, High-speed Internet Access
The Educational Broadband Service, formerly known as the Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS), is an educational service that has generally been used for the transmission of instructional material to accredited educational institutions, according to the FCC’s website. Generally, only accredited educational institutions and nonprofit educational organizations can hold EBS licenses, although licensees can lease their excess capacity to commercial providers. EBS allows educators to offer instructional services utilizing low-power broadband systems and high-speed internet access.
The FCC’s action concerning the Educational Broadband Service got an angry response from Voqal, a coalition of EBS licensees, which called it a “short-sighted move that wastes a valuable resource and forecloses a rare opportunity to quickly support rural educators and communities starved for broadband access.”
“Perhaps the worst part of today’s decision is to auction off vacant EBS spectrum that the FCC has allowed to languish unassigned for decades,” wrote the organization. “As was noted by dozens of commenters and confirmed in a robust economic study, rural educators and smaller wireless broadband providers lose the most under the new scheme. The likelihood they can gain access to spectrum in an auction is practically zero.”