FCC Commissioner Simington Endorses Exclusive Use Licensing Model for 4.9 GHz
Thursday, November 04, 2021 | Comments

FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington said that he supports an exclusive use licensing model for commercial use of the 4.9 GHz band. Simington made the comments during a keynote speech at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International.

“For twenty years now, high hopes for public-safety use of the 4.9 GHz band have been unrealized, and this increasingly valuable spectrum has mostly lain fallow,” he said. “This situation does not serve the public safety community well, but the solution is to find uses for the band that do. I’m happy that my colleagues at the FCC have agreed to explore an exclusive-use licensing model for commercial use of this band.”

Last year, the FCC adopted rules creating a framework that would allow states to lease the 4.9 GHz band, which is currently allocated for public-safety use, to non-public-safety entities. Following backlash from public-safety entities, the FCC vacated those rules at its September meeting.

“I think an exclusive-use licensing model will prove more beneficial — operationally and economically — than either the current model or any of the other alternatives explored by the FCC in recent years,” Simington said. “An auction of exclusive use licenses for 5G and other advanced services would harvest the most value for the 4.9 GHz band, as we saw with the C-Band auction. And, it will lead to a more robust 5G equipment ecosystem that public-safety licensees operating in the band need to accomplish their important work.”

Simington said that an incentive auction approach would provide value to those current licensees who choose to relocate the band and provide other current licensees with funds to follow whatever technology strategy they decide to pursue.

“And it accomplishes all this while still allowing those who have chosen to develop their own 4.9 GHz infrastructure to keep their license should they wish to,” Simington said. “This way, current licenses will be able to decide for themselves which tech strategy will work best for them without relinquishing any equipment or access unless it’s their choice to do so.” It will work better both for those who wish to continue use of 4.9 GHz and those who would prefer to be made whole and then use other bands.”

Simington argued that an exclusive-use licensing model is best for mission-critical services because it could encourage commercial vendors to invest in the band.

“In order for an ecosystem of fit-for-purpose equipment and vendors to emerge, we need large-scale commercial investment in these bands,” he said. “And, basing public-safety infrastructure on cutting edge commercial technology will mean a stronger market for the necessary products and services, so that public-safety bodies can pay competitive prices for top-of-the-line equipment instead of exorbitant sums for bespoke and inferior special purpose gear based on commercially abandoned technologies.”

Above all, Simington said he is interested in hearing feedback from public-safety organizations and working together on the future of the band.

“Seeking comment on these proposals will make sure that we get this important decision right,” Simington said. “We are not omniscient at the FCC. I have never run a PSAP, or any public-safety infrastructure for that matter, but you have. I look forward to hearing what you have to say. We can’t get this right without you.”

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