FCC Enables Incentive Auction for 5G High-Band Spectrum

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The FCC Wednesday passed a Report and Order the agency says takes a major step toward holding a 5G spectrum auction in 2019. The new rules will promote the availability of high-band millimeter wave spectrum. The airwaves in the combined upper 37 GHz and 39 GHz bands are the largest amount of contiguous spectrum available for wireless service in the millimeter wave bands—2,400 megahertz in total—while the 47 GHz band provides an additional 1,000 megahertz of spectrum, according to the Commission.

In response, Wireless Infrastructure Association President Jonathan Adelstein said: “The action will help the U.S. continue to lead the world in wireless innovation. 2018 has been a banner year for the Commission in laying the foundation for next generation wireless services.” The open meeting, he said, continues the FCC’s commitment to win the race to 5G.

The National Association of Tower Erectors told Inside Towers: “NATE applauds the FCC’s continued proactive leadership in opening up more spectrum bands for industry’s use. This high frequency spectrum made available through future FCC auctions will be critical in helping 5G deployment scale. This is also great news for NATE’s members as more access to industry spectrum equates to more deployment opportunities for the Association’s contractor firms.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr noted 2019 will see, “the first 5G smartphone, the first 5G commercial launch on low-band spectrum,” and the “first truly mobile 5G service,” as he voted for the item. Chairman Ajit Pai said, “We’re setting up,” for what will be the agency’s second incentive auction, with some differences from the broadcast version.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said, “Incumbents will have the flexibility to keep or expand on their spectrum holdings or market or sell their licenses to other auction participants. This should ensure that licenses go to those that value them the most and are most likely to deploy next-generation services.”  

Specifically, the Fourth Report and Order:

  • Modifies the band plans for the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands from 200 megahertz blocks to 100 megahertz blocks to be licensed by Partial Economic Area to facilitate the simultaneous auction of licenses in the three bands;
  • Adopts an auction mechanism that will offer contiguous blocks of spectrum throughout the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands, while preserving spectrum use rights for existing licensees; and
  • Adopts a pre-auction process that allows incumbent licensees to rationalize their holdings. Comments? Email Us.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

December 13, 2018               

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