The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday unanimously approved a measure that would eventually enable wireless companies to take advantage of mid-band spectrum between 3.7 GHz and 4.2 GHz.
The vote initiates the rule-making process for opening up that 500 MHz of spectrum, also known as the C-Band, for wireless use. The band is currently used by television networks to deliver programming via satellite but is considered important to supporting 5G networks. Some broadcasters have voiced concerns about sharing their spectrum with wireless companies.
“We have some challenges in bringing more intensive use to this band in the U.S., including long-standing incumbent operations,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr. “This decision tees up a number of potential paths forward.”
The proposal floated by the FCC would require current satellite operators to detail their operations in the C-Band, and it asks stakeholders to address transitioning all or part of the band — through market-based methods, auctions or other actions — to flexible-use spectrum.
In addition, the proposal asks for comments on point-to-multipoint fixed use in portions of the band, along with comments on protecting incumbent users and technical issues.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel praised the move to free up more mid-band spectrum but warned that a “market-based mechanism” floated by current C-Band operators could allow those companies to price their limited spectrum “above what a truly competitive market with a large pool of fungible spectrum would support.”
“We need a framework to ensure that this approach truly serves the public interest,” she said.
Industry group CTIA, meanwhile, hailed the vote and noted that changes to the neighboring 3.5 GHz band could also provide more opportunities for U.S. operators.
“Other countries are moving quickly to bring mid-band spectrum to market, so today’s action is a positive step toward increasing America’s competitiveness in the global race to 5G,” CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker said in a statement.
Filed Under: Industry regulations