FCC Grants Longer 3.65 – 3.7 GHz Transition Times for Some Licensees
Monday, October 19, 2020 | Comments

The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) granted requests to multiple licensees for waiver of the commission’s rules in transitioning their operations in the 3.65 – 3.7 GHz band from Part 90 to Part 96.

“Given the circumstances that caused delays for these licensees, and in the interest of keeping their customers connected amidst ‘a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical and civic life of our country that are unique and unprecedented in modern history,’ we find good cause to again extend, for limited periods of time, the deadline for these licensees to complete their transition to Part 96-based operations,” the FCC said.

In 2015, the FCC created the Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) band from the 3.55 – 3.7 GHz band. That band allows dynamic spectrum sharing through a three-tiered access and authorization framework to coordinate shared federal and non-federal use of the band among incumbents, priority access licenses (PAL) and general authorized access (GAA) users.

Incumbent users make up the highest priority tier and receive protection from all other users and include federal users, fixed satellite service earth stations and, for a finite period, grandfathered terrestrial wireless broadband licensees in the 3.65 – 3.7 GHz band. Operations under the new framework have begun and automated frequency coordinators, known as spectrum access system (SAS) administrators, facilitate sharing between and among the tiers of users.

The commission adopted a transition period for certain part 90 incumbent grandfathered wireless broadband licensees in the 3.65 – 3.7 GHz band to transition to part 96 rules. Prior to the transition, wireless broadband licensees in the 3.65 – 3.7 GHz band operate under part 90 on a nationwide, non-exclusive basis.

Under the commission’s rules, the transition periods for the 3.65 – 3.7 GHz licensees end between October 17, 2020 and January 8, 2023, depending on the grant and expiration dates of each individual licensee.

For a licensee to be grandfathered in, that licensee must have registered its stations on or before April 17, 2015, and the registered stations must have been “constructed, in service, and fully compliant with the rules in Part 90, subpart Z as of April 17, 2016.” During the transition period, grandfathered licensees are granted incumbent status with respect to CBRS operations in their protection zones.

Non-grandfathered licensees — Part 90 licensees that did not apply for grandfathered status or did not have qualifying sites — have the right to operate at existing registered sites under Part 90 until the date for which each licensee would have qualified for grandfathered status had they applied. For most licensees, that date is the same as the end of the license term.

In March, the FCC initially extended the deadlines due to the COVID-19 pandemic and delays it may have caused. That decision also allowed licensees to apply for an extended deadline if certain circumstances arose.

The FCC concluded that granting the requests would serve the public interest and granted some licensees 60-day extensions and others 120-day extensions for the transition. Find the full list of licensees receiving the extensions here.

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