Groups Ask Congress to Urge FCC to Use CBRS Framework for 3.45 – 3.55 GHz Band
Friday, March 05, 2021 | Comments

A group of industry organizations and companies asked several lawmakers to use the framework used for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) auction for an auction of 3.45 — 3.55 GHz band spectrum.

The organizations said that the 3.45 – 3.55 GHz band is critical to expanding mid-band spectrum access across the U.S. and can provide 5G services and connectivity to rural areas of the U.S. The organizations argued that using the same framework as the FCC used for the CBRS auction could help achieve these goals.

“The rules the commission adopted for that band attracted a record 271 qualified applicants, 228 of which placed winning bids for licenses at auction,” the organizations wrote in a letter to Senators Maria Cantwell and Roger Wicker and Representatives Frank Pallone and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. “By comparison, in the recent C-band auction, only 57 applicants qualified to bid, and only 21 bidders were successful. The success of the CBRS auction in attracting a wide variety of applicants can clearly be attributed to the rules that the commission adopted for that band, which were carefully calibrated to attract a diverse group of bidders seeking to provide both traditional and innovative new services.”

In February, Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel released a draft order proposing rules for the 3.45 – 3.55 GHz band. The industry organizations expressed concern that the proposed rules would license the band like the C-band and not the CBRS band.

“The large partial economic area licenses proposed would not foster the kind of robust participation and innovation that made the CBRS auction a success and could also result in tepid investment and buildout in rural areas where Americans need broadband more than ever before,” the letter said. “The undersigned therefore ask Congress to urge the commission to follow proven aspects of the successful CBRS framework for the 3.45 GHz band to encourage similarly robust auction participation and competitive access to spectrum.”

In the letter, the groups also expressed concern that the current estimates of the costs to relocate federal users of the band could make it difficult for the FCC to successfully auction the band.

“On January 14, 2021, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) informed the FCC and Congress that federal relocation costs for the band were estimated at more than $13.4 billion, meaning that the auction reserve price that bidders would have to meet in order for a successful auction would be nearly $15 billion, likely putting licenses out of reach for all but the three largest nationwide wireless operators,” the letter said. “Wireless providers’ large financial commitments in the recent C-band auction and related buildout obligations make it all the more appropriate to encourage other sources of capital in a second mid-band spectrum auction in the same year.”

The groups said that under the proposed order, the auction of the band would begin in October, two months before the deadline that Congress gave it to auction the spectrum, meaning that there is additional time to work on the auction process.

“To help ensure a successful 3.45 GHz auction, Congress should encourage the FCC to consider licensing policies akin to those adopted in the CBRS band that could increase competition, lower costs for prospective new entrants, and better ensure that the benefits of 5G are enjoyed by all consumers for a wide variety of innovative uses,” the letter said. “We also ask that Congress work closely with NTIA, affected federal spectrum users and the FCC to consider ways to refine and reduce the federal government’s relocation cost estimate.”

Organizations signing the letter were the American Petroleum Institute (API), Celona, Charter Communications, Comcast Communications, Cox Communications, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA), Edison Electric Institute (EEI), Energy Telecommunications and Electrical Association (ENTELEC), Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA), Federated Wireless, Google, Hewlett Packard, Mediacom Communications, Midcontinent Communications, NCTA — The Internet and Television Association, Next Century Cities, Open Technology Institute at New America, Public Knowledge, Rural Wireless Association, Southern Linc, Utilities Technology Council (UTC), and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA).

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