FCC Proposes New 800 MHz Interstitial Rules for Private LMR Licensees
Monday, February 09, 2015 | Comments

The FCC proposed new, full-power, interstitial 12.5-kilohertz “offset” channels in the 809 – 817/854 – 862 MHz band, subject to certain protections designed to safeguard 800 MHz incumbents from interference.

The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) is in response to a petition for rulemaking filed by the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA). The proposal creates the opportunity for 319 additional voice-grade channels for use by public safety, business/industrial, general category and high-site SMR licensees.

“We believe our proposal may reduce barriers to innovation and encourage investment in new technologies that will enable private LMR (PLMR) licensees to use the spectrum more efficiently,” the commission said.

The 800 MHz rules provide applicants with the flexibility to aggregate up to five 25-kilohertz channels to accommodate efficient technologies that require more than a 25-kilohertz bandwidth. However, doing so, particularly in large metropolitan areas, is generally foreclosed because other users occupy the necessary contiguous spectrum. Thus, more flexible use of spectrum in these areas appears possible only by accommodating narrower channel spacing in the mid-band, as proposed by EWA.

The FCC requested comment on the 2009 EWA petition, and nearly all commenters agreed that 12.5-kilohertz interstitial channels in the 800 MHz band, if properly managed to avoid harmful interference to existing licensees, could prove beneficial to public safety and enterprise business and industrial users by providing additional channel capacity, added spectrum efficiency and deployment of advanced technologies.

Specifically, the FCC proposed to establish interstitial channels with reduced bandwidth in the mid-band, subject to certain interference protection criteria and eligibility requirements. The commission also proposed to continue licensing of standard 25-kilohertz bandwidth channels in the mid-band with channel centers separated by 25 kilohertz, and licensing of full-power interstitial channels with 12.5 kHz bandwidth and center frequencies offset 12.5 kilohertz above and below the center frequencies of the standard channels in the mid-band. The FCC is seeking comment on how the introduction of TETRA technology into the mid-band may impact its proposal to establish 12.5-kilohertz bandwidth interstitial channels.

The FCC is also seeking comment on the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) concerns addressed in the comment period. Comments will be due 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The instant proposal for interstitial channels in the 800 MHz band differs significantly from the narrowbanding approach to below-512 MHz PLMR licensing in the refarming proceeding, the commission said. In refarming, all incumbent licensees were required to narrowband their facilities, whereas, in the instant proposal, incumbent licensees retain their existing authorized facilities. Consequently, the proposal can be implemented immediately and does not require the multiyear transition to narrowband technology associated with refarming, the FCC said.

The full order is available here.

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