FCC Releases 900 MHz Notice of Inquiry, Requests Comments on PDV, M2M Petitions
Friday, August 04, 2017 | Comments

The FCC opened a proceeding through a notice of inquiry (NOI) to examine whether rule changes in the 900 MHz band would be appropriate to increase access to spectrum, improve spectrum efficiency, and expand flexibility for next-generation technologies and services.

Comments are due Sept. 18, and reply comments are due Oct. 18.

Specifically, the NOI requests comment on a 2014 joint petition from Pacific DataVision (PDV) and the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) asking the FCC to realign the 900 MHz band to allow Long Term Evolution (LTE) operations. In 2014, PDV acquired all of Sprint’s 900 MHz spectrum licenses — about 6 megahertz nationwide.

The petition asks the FCC to reconfigure the 10 megahertz of the 896 – 901 MHz paired with 935 – 940 MHz to allow a 3-megahertz contiguous block for private enterprise broadband (PEBB). The remaining 2 megahertz of spectrum could be used for narrowband PTT services by the band’s many critical infrastructure industry (CII) users.

In the petition for rulemaking, PDV offers to facilitate the realignment by exchanging its 900 MHz licenses with those of incumbents that prefer to continue operating narrowband systems. PDV and EWA propose that broadband licenses issued to PDV and others would be conditioned by the FCC with the obligation to grant priority access to CII entities, subject to negotiation of terms and conditions of the parties.

In 2015, the FCC requested comment on the petition. Most 900 MHz incumbent licensee comments opposed the petition, citing interference concerns, lack of technical and cost details in the plan, and disagreement with the petition’s suggestion to freeze the band to prepare for the proposed realignment, among others.

The notice also requests comment on a proposal by M2M Spectrum Networks, requesting that the commission amend the rules to permit SMR systems on 900 MHz B/ILT channels, provided that the end users are B/ILT-eligible.

Most commenters opposed the M2M proposal because of concerns that it would have a serious negative effect on the availability of 900 MHz B/ILT spectrum for traditional B/ILT users, impeding the ability of such users to expand capacity and coverage of their own private internal systems. Other parties argued that the proposal will create more short-spacing situations in urban areas and force B/ILT users instead to purchase access to spectrum in this band from commercial SMRs such as M2M at a premium price

The 896 – 901/935 – 940 MHz band was designated in 1986 for narrowband private land mobile radio (PLMR) communications by business/industrial/land transportation (B/ILT) licensees and SMR providers, with systems in place. The 900 MHz band consists of 399 narrowband 12.5-kilohertz frequency pairs grouped into 10-channel blocks that alternate between SMR blocks that are geographically licensed by major trading area (MTA) and B/ILT blocks in which channels are assigned on a site-by-site basis. The 900 MHz band is divided evenly between the SMR pool and the B/ILT pool.

The FCC is requesting comment on the potential for modifying the operational rules and band configuration for the 900 MHz band, which has undergone few changes since 1986, in light of continuing evolutions in technology and the marketplace.

The NOI said a recent review of the FCC’s Universal Licensing System database shows about 2,700 900 MHz B/ILT sites licensed to about 500 licensees. While the service is used throughout the country, most stations are in the coastal Northeast, the Carolinas, the Atlanta region, Florida, the Great Lakes region, the Gulf Coast area, coastal Washington State and throughout California.

Electric, gas, and water utilities state that they use 900 MHz LMR systems for voice communications in daily operations and during emergencies, including disaster recovery. The band is used at nuclear power plants for security operations, public alert notifications and other purposes. Other reported uses include flood warning systems and smart grid applications.

The full NOI is here.

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