FCC Takes First Step Towards Shared Use in 3.1-3.55 GHz Band

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The FCC wants to open up the 3.1-3.55 GHz band to 5G and other commercial services. Currently, the Department of Defense uses portions of the band, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. During yesterday’s vote on the item, he said it provides a “glide path” between federal operations and potential future flexible use commercial services. 

Specifically, the item proposes to remove and relocate the non-federal users in the 3.3-3.55 GHz portion of the band, which currently is allocated for non-federal secondary radiolocation services and amateur use. The item also seeks comment on the relocation options and transition mechanisms for these incumbent non-federal users to the 3.1-3.3 GHz band or to other frequencies. 

Both Pai and FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly called the item a good first step. O’Rielly had a small quibble with a portion of the proposal, noting: “It doesn’t make sense to me to move non-federal users from upper to lower portion of the band when we want to” eventually clear out that portion as well.  

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who also voted for the change, said: “We have a long way to go before this band is opened for 5G.” She said the agency has been way too slow to open up mid-band frequencies for wireless use and is falling behind 16 other countries in this regard.

“So here’s the truth,” she continued. “If you survey these proceedings, you will see that our spectrum policies are increasingly divorced from the realities on the ground in the United States and the priorities in the rest of the world. And this has consequences for our wireless leadership, the digital divide, and national security.”

In response to the vote, CTIA SVP Regulatory Affairs Scott Bergmann said the association cheers the agency, “for its work to identify and allocate additional mid-band spectrum for 5G services. This 250-megahertz swath of spectrum presents a prime opportunity to do just that, and we look forward to further engaging with federal partners on evaluating the full 3.1-3.55 GHz band for commercial wireless use.”

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

December 13, 2019             

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