Bill Introduced to Speed Freeing Up 5G Spectrum

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Sponsors re-introduced the Spectrum Now Act on Tuesday. The bill facilitates 5G by enabling government agencies to become more efficient and effective in their spectrum use and requiring key mid-band frequencies be made available for commercial wireless use.

CTIA SVP Government Affairs Kelly Cole, called the bipartisan effort, “important to maintaining our position as the global leader in wireless. 

By unlocking funds to free up additional spectrum for commercial wireless, this legislation will help spur new innovation and services for consumers.”

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Roger Wicker, (R-MS), and Ranking Member Sen. Brian Schatz, (D-HI) sponsor the measure in the Senate. Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, and Rep. Brett Guthrie, (R-KY) sponsor the bill in the House.

Specifically, the “Supplementing the Pipeline for Efficient Control of The Resources for Users Making New Opportunities for Wireless (SPECTRUM NOW) Act,” creates a pathway for agencies to modify their operations on federally-held spectrum to make those frequencies available for commercial wireless broadband use. Congress passed the Spectrum Pipeline Act in 2015, which broadened the expenses that can be supported by the Spectrum Relocation Fund (SRF).

Current law allows federal agencies to perform research and development, engineering studies, economic analyses, and other planning activities that could lead to spectrum being repurposed for commercial use, but it limits the resources federal agencies can actually access for research and planning. Without this fix, federal agencies that have identified spectrum that could be repurposed, would not be able to conduct engineering research that could make the spectrum available for commercial wireless use.

Highlights of the SPECTRUM NOW Act include:

  • Improves federal agencies’ ability to study making spectrum available for commercial wireless use.
  • Requires a plan be submitted to repurpose the 3450 MHz – 3550 MHz band for commercial wireless use. This band is adjacent to the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, which is expected to be auctioned next year.  
  • Creates a timeline for formal identification and auction of the 3450 MHz – 3550 MHz band, provided the study required by the SPECTRUM NOW Act determines it can be made available for commercial use.
  • Requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to consult with the FCC and the relevant federal agency on whether spectrum subject to a plan could be made available on an unlicensed basis, if a study reveals it could not be made available for auction on a licensed basis.
  • Updates an annual report by NTIA on the implementation of relocation or sharing arrangements of federal spectrum.

June 27, 2019

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