FCC Puts Freeze on 4.9 GHz Applications
Wednesday, September 09, 2020 | Comments

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau announced a temporary freeze on the acceptance and processing of certain applications in the 4.9 GHz band.

The freeze is effective as of Sept. 8, which is the same day FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the FCC would consider a report and order that would allow states to lease 4.9 GHz spectrum to commercial entities, electrical utilities and other entities.

Under the freeze, which covers frequencies from 4.94 – 4.99 GHz, the FCC will not accept applications for new licenses authorizing operations of any kind in the band and applications seeking to modify existing operations in the band. Any applications that are filed on or after Sept. 8 will be dismissed and any pending application that would be barred under the freeze will not be processed and will be dismissed.

The freeze does not apply to applications that would not destabilize the licensing landscape including applications to renew existing licenses without modification, applications that seek to modify existing licenses by deleting frequencies or fixed sites, applications that seek to modify existing licenses by changing technical parameters in a way that does not expand the station’s spectral or geographic coverage, applications to assign or transfer licenses and more.

The FCC said that the freeze is procedural and, therefore, not subject to the notice and comment and effective date requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act. The commission said it did not find good cause for not delaying the effective date of the freeze pending publication because any delays would undermine the purpose of the freeze, which will ensure no new applications do not compromise its flexibility to modify the rules governing the band.

The commission has argued that the 4.9 GHz band, which was given to public safety in 2002, is currently underused and has been looking at ways to revitalize the band. Public-safety leaders have questioned whether the band is truly underused and formed the Public Safety Spectrum Alliance with the goal of preserving the band for public safety. The group has urged the FCC to give the spectrum to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to help cover future public-safety demand for LTE and 5G services.

“One of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) core responsibilities is spectrum management,” a PSSA statement said. “The FCC is responsible for managing spectrum utilized by all entities other than the federal government, including public safety. We are highly perplexed on why the FCC would seek to devolve the management of any spectrum bands to the states, which have neither the expertise nor the resources to manage the 4.9 GHz band.

“In addition to centralizing spectrum management at the FCC, Congress in 2012 created a nationwide public-safety network to address critical shortcomings in public-safety spectrum management as demonstrated by the response to the 9/11 attacks,” the statement said. “We do not believe that delegating the management of any public-safety spectrum bands to the states is consistent with Congressional intent. We hope that the FCC seeks Congressional input on this proposal and reconsiders its proposed decision.”

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