• United States
Jon Gold
Senior Writer

At it again: The FCC rolls out plans to open up yet more spectrum

News Analysis
Sep 14, 20203 mins

Hard on the heels of auctioning off CBRS bandwidth for 5G, the FCC moves to provide more and more spectrum for commercial use.

Wireless telecommunications tower encircled by concentric, virtual rings.
Credit: Sasha85ru / Getty Images

The Federal Communications Commission will take steps toward auctioning off two more frequency ranges in the 3.1GHz to 4.9GHz band for commercial use, following up on auctions that created more bandwidth for 5G and other wireless services.

The first frequency range sits between 3.3GHz and 3.5GHz, is 100MHz wide and would become available nationwide. The first step toward redistributing the band would be to remove allocations in that range that are now held by non-governmental entities and reassign them to bandwidth between 3.45GHz and 3.55GHz or between 2.9GHz and 3GHz, the commission said in an announcement.

The FCC also wants to add a further allocation for flexible-use licenses in the 3.45Ghz-3.55GHz band, and will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking – the second major step in the FCC’s rulemaking process – about how to auction off licenses for those. Both these reallocation issues are scheduled for discussion at the FCC’s Sept. 30 meeting.

That’s likely to prove another battleground for wireless service providers vying to ramp up their capacity for 5G deployments. While it’s unclear precisely how that 100MHz of spectrum between 3.3GHz and 3.5GHz would be subdivided, that’s a considerable amount of bandwidth, and national rights to even small parts of it could be very valuable.

Higher in the spectrum, the FCC has its eye on the 4.9GHz band. The plan for that is to clear the way for states to lease out parts of the spectrum to several potential stakeholders, including public-safety organizations, electrical utilities and commercial users. This would take the form of licensing one 50MHz band in the 4.9GHz range that is currently earmarked only for public-safety use, per state, broadening that channel’s potential range of applications.

Nor are these the only new pieces of spectrum set to become available in the near future – the FCC highlighted that a hefty 280MHz band of spectrum in the 3.7GHz range – better known as the C-band – is set to be auctioned off on December 8. Once again, the existing authorized users, mostly fixed-satellite incumbents, will have their licenses moved elsewhere.

Also at its meeting this month, the commission plans to vote on a proposal to expedite its foreign-ownership review process, as well as further work on plans to combat spoofed robocalls and promote more robust caller-ID technology.