FCC Proposal Would Vacate 4.9 GHz Leasing Rules, Return Spectrum to Public Safety
Friday, September 17, 2021 | Comments

The FCC released an order on reconsideration and a proposed further notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the 4.9 GHz band that, if approved, would drastically change the path it set for the band last year.

Last October, the FCC approved an order that allowed states to lease spectrum in the band to non-public-safety entities. The band was previously reserved for public-safety use but the FCC had spent several years looking to address what it termed as under use of the band.

The public-safety community came out against the proposal and several organizations filed petitions for reconsideration. The rules creating the framework had gone into effect, but the FCC put a stay on its implementation while those petitions were considered.

If approved, the order of reconsideration would grant the petitions of reconsiderations and vacate the leasing rules adopted in October. The order would also partially lift the freeze that the FCC put into effect prior to the adoption of the framework. That lifting of the freeze would allow existing licensees to modify their 4.9 GHz band licenses or apply for new fixed site licenses.

Meanwhile, the further NPRM would adopt a framework that emphasizes public-safety needs. The NPRM would seek comment on mechanisms that would ensure public-safety use of the band, including protecting public-safety licenses from interference, collecting granular license data to improve the FCC’s licensing database, adopting standards to promote interoperability, and requiring priority and pre-emption for public safety in any spectrum sharing framework for the band.

Additionally, the order would explore ways to increase public-safety use of the band, such as requiring some form of formal frequency coordination, designating a nationwide band manager or regional planning committee to manage public-safety use and promoting innovation and the use of new technologies in the band.

Finally, the order would seek comment on alternative ways to facilitate non-public-safety access to the 4.9 GHz band that is compatible with public safety, including allowing public-safety licensees to lease excess capacity on their facilities to non-public-safety users, implementing a shared access model to facilitate coexistence between public-safety and non-public-safety users, establishing overlay or other licensing options for non-public-safety operations, and exploring technical flexibility and auction-based alternatives that would be consistent with the proposed nationwide framework.

The FCC will consider the order of reconsideration and the NPRM at its September 30 meeting. Find the full text of the proposal here.

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