The Federal Communications Commission will seek input from public safety officials and other stakeholders about potentially sharing spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band.
The agency designated 50 MHz of spectrum in that band for public safety communications in 2002, but FCC officials asked whether an “appropriate sharing mechanism” could encourage additional use of the band as well as protect current users from interference.
The FCC unanimously approved the rulemaking notice at its meeting Thursday.
“As the demand for wireless services continues to grow, it is imperative that the FCC takes steps to ensure underutilized spectrum bands are used efficiently,” Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in a statement. “This is as true for spectrum allocated to public safety as it is for the bands used to support commercial wireless broadband services.”
Officials noted that although nearly 90,000 public safety agencies are eligible for licenses in the band, less than 3,200 licenses are currently in use — potentially due to difficulty acquiring equipment, high deployment costs or concerns about interference.
A more flexible system, commissioners said, could address those issues while encouraging industry innovation and investment.
“There are a number of reasons why we have not batted 1,000 in our efforts to put the 4.9 GHz band to productive use, and I am open-minded about whether we need to revisit our prior designations,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr.