FCC to Vote on Opening Up Public Safety Spectrum for 5G

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is planning votes this month on rules to let states lease 4.9 GHz spectrum to “commercial entities, electrical utilities and others,” according to his blog post. Much of the band — 50 MHz — is designated for public safety use.

He wrote that the agenda calls for commissioners to consider making significant mid-band spectrum available for 5G, such as the 3.45 – 3.55 GHz as well. “Unfortunately, only about 3.5 percent of potential licensees — less than 1 out of 25 — have actually taken advantage of this spectrum,” wrote Pai.  

A barrier to sharing that spectrum, according to Pai, is the “unusual licensing framework” that exists now. Public safety licensees are permitted to use their spectrum only for public safety purposes, with no exclusivity, and share the band by ad-hoc coordination to avoid interference.  

The item the agency intends to vote on September 30 will protect public safety incumbent operations while providing states the flexibility to use the spectrum to boost wireless broadband and improve critical infrastructure monitoring, according to the Chairman. The proposed changes could also facilitate new public safety use cases that meet the unique challenges and geographies of each state. 

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