FCC Proposes Sharing 4.9 GHz Public-Safety Band
Friday, March 23, 2018 | Comments

After many years of comments and recommendations, the FCC proposed action on the public-safety 4.9 GHz band that the commission said would promote more flexible and intensive use of the 4.9 GHz band.

In a sixth further notice of proposed rulemaking adopted March 22, the FCC seeks comment on technical proposals to encourage greater use of and investment in the band, currently reserved for public safety. The FCC said it will draw on input from the public-safety community and other potential users.

“The commission’s goal is to promote increased public-safety use of the band and protect users from harmful interference while opening the spectrum to additional uses that will encourage a more robust market for equipment and greater innovation,” the FCC said. “The commission seeks comment on whether an appropriate sharing mechanism could encourage more opportunistic use of the band while ensuring the priority, integrity and security of public-safety operations.”

In 2002, the commission designated 50 megahertz of spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band to public safety. Although nearly 90,000 public-safety entities are eligible for licenses in this band, there are fewer than 3,200 licenses in use.

Public-safety organizations and others have cited possible reasons, including difficulty in acquiring equipment, the cost of deployment and concerns about harmful interference.

In his comments on the proposal, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said the spectrum should be redesignated for commercial use. “Today’s notice provides the opportunity to contemplate whether this spectrum, which is located in close proximity to the 5 GHz unlicensed band, should be allocated for unlicensed or licensed use, what the technical rules should be, and how the commission should deal with the incumbents,” he said.

In a statement, the Utilities Technology Council (UTC) said it supports expanding eligibility to include critical infrastructure industry (CII) entities, such as utilities, to hold primary 4.9 GHz licenses.

“The 4.9 GHz band is lightly used and expanding eligibility to include utilities to hold primary licenses will help to make more effective use of the spectrum,” said UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto. “UTC has worked with the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) to put forward a band plan that would include utilities as eligible to hold licenses in the band. The FCC proposal appears to address many of the priorities we identified in support of the NPSTC plan. Spectrum is the key to grid security and modernization, and this is an important and crucial first step.”

In 2013, NPSTC made recommendations on the 4.9 GHz band to the FCC, and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International submitted a 2015 report to the FCC.

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