FCC Begins Lifting T-Band Application Freeze with Initial Focus on Incumbents
Thursday, January 21, 2021 | Comments

The FCC began the process of lifting the T-band application freeze that has been in effect over the band since 2012.

Thirty days from the release of the public notice, January 19, the FCC will begin processing T-band applications for renewal of licenses and process all other pending T-band applications. However, the FCC said it will dismiss without prejudice any pending applications that include a request for waiver of the suspension notice.

“We dismiss requests for waiver of the application suspension in order to provide equal opportunity to all applicants and establish a stable spectral environment for modifying the suspension,” the FCC said.

After that initial processing period, which will cover 30 days, applicants and frequency coordinators will have a 30-day period to prepare and begin pre-coordination of certain new applications. At the end of that period, a 90-day period, from March 22 to June 21, will begin. During that time the FCC will accept certain applications from incumbent licensees only. Those application types include:
• Applications for modifications of licenses characterized as minor under the commission’s rules,
• Applications categorized as major under Part 22 of the FCC’s rules,
• Applications governed by Part 90 of the FCC’s rules but only if those applications propose operations in 12.5 kilohertz bandwidth or narrower channels or use a technology that achieves the narrowband equivalent of at least one channel per 12.5 kilohertz of bandwidth for voice and transmission rates of at least 4,800 bits per second per 6.25 kilohertz for data systems operating with bandwidths greater than 12.5 kHz.

The FCC said frequency coordinators should follow pre-coordination procedures to eliminate conflicts between Part 90 applications prior to them being filed with the commission and they must attach the appropriate certifications to each application. Under the notice, frequency coordinators may accept applications for T-band channels submitted to them on or before the release date of the notice. To eliminate the possibility that the commission could receive mutually exclusive Part 90 applications, each frequency coordinator must provide notification of each application submitted to it for coordination to all other participating coordinators prior to filing the application with the commission. The FCC said this notification process is to enable frequency coordinators to address and resolve conflicting applications prior to filing with the commission.

Pre-coordination activities cannot begin any sooner than 8 a.m. ET on February 18, the commission said. At that time, each frequency coordinator may submit electronic notification to the other participating coordinators of Part 90 applications it has prepared for coordination.

The FCC said it will process accepted applications in accordance with its rules. The freeze remains in place for major applications that do not meet narrowbanding requirements.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), mandated that the FCC auction the T-band spectrum by 2021. Shortly after the enactment of that act, the FCC put an application freeze in place in order to maintain a stable spectral environment for the implementation of the auction mandate. Then in 2019, the FCC released another freeze on applications to renew certain Part 22 and Part 90 operations.

In December, as part of a coronavirus relief and government spending package, Congress repealed the T-band mandate. With the mandate gone, the FCC said the freeze was no longer necessary.

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