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Federal Communications Commission Approves Auction Rules For 3.5 GigaHertz Band

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Screenshot from FCC monthly meeting

March 17, 2021—The Federal Communications Commission voted on a handful of items pertaining to the upcoming 3.45-3.55 GigaHertz (GHz) spectrum auction’s rules and bidding process.

Rules regarding the facilitation and operation of the 100 megahertz between 3.45 GHz and 3.55 GHz were voted on Wednesday during the FCC’s monthly meeting.

Two of the aims of the order were to establish the band between 3.45 GHz and 3.55 GHz for flexible-use for wireless and establish the bidding rules and technical service requirements for the upcoming auction of said band. The auction for this band would also be required to begin before January 1, 2022.

Commissioner Brendan Carr voiced his support for the order, stating that it would continue to secure the U.S.’s leadership role with the roll-out of 5G.

“This is by far the fastest effort ever to identify and auction federal spectrum for commercial use,” he said. “This will not only create efficiencies between operations in the two bands, [but] it will ensure robust 5G coverage, which is particularly helpful for accelerated builds in rural communities.”

Carr did voice concern that the FCC had imposed undue obstacles for would-be auction participants, and that the government seemed to be picking “winners and losers.”

He explained that he would have preferred fewer regulations, which he believed would have promoted greater competition.

Despite this concern, Carr ultimately joined with the rest of his fellow commissioners and Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in voting to approve the order, while noting his reservations.

Rosenworcel said that to thrive in a post-pandemic world, 5G would need to be able to reach every American across the country, and that this order was a step toward that goal.

The commissioners and Rosenworcel also voted in favor of the public notice that would, among other things, propose bidding rounds, establish bidding credit caps for small businesses and rural service providers, and put forward minimum opening bid amounts for flexible-use licenses for the 3.45-3.55 GHz band.

As a child of American parents working abroad, Reporter Ben Kahn was raised as a third culture kid, growing up in five different countries, including the U.S.. He is a recent graduate of the University of Baltimore, where he majored in Policy, Politics, and International Affairs. He enjoys learning about foreign languages and cultures and can now speak poorly in more than one language.

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Spectrum

More Experts Weigh In On Possibility 12 GHz Band Can Be Shared with 5G Services

More experts weight in on the debate about whether the 12 GHz band can coexist with 5G operations.

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Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute

WASHINGTON, November 9, 2021 – Experts at the New America Open Technology Institute last week suggested that the 12 Gigahertz band can be shared with 5G wireless services and argued that the big-name proponent that says it can’t has allegedly not produced evidence saying otherwise.

The Federal Communications Commission, studying the sharing possibility, has fielded comments from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has argued that the 12 GHz band used by satellite services, cannot be shared with 5G wireless providers because of interference problems. On the other hand, providers like RS Access have argued that it can, using a technical study from RKF Engineering to demonstrate as such.

At a New America Open Technology Institute event on November 2, Kathleen Burke, policy counsel at internet advocacy group Public Knowledge, alleged SpaceX hasn’t submitted any studies showing it’s not possible to share spectrum.

Burke said SpaceX has no engineering analysis supporting its claim that the band could not be shared. “Incumbents are not open to sharing spectrum” she said, alleging a strong desire for SpaceX to win exclusive use licenses for its satellite venture.

“The evidence demonstrates it is possible to share this band,” she added.

Nicol Turner-Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, said that it’s worth looking at innovations in satellite. “When we come up with a solution for the digital divide, shared spectrum use [of the 12GHz band] has always been on the palate,” she said.

“The question is, can we get along when there’s so many people that are disconnected,” she added. “This may not be picking winners and losers and more about getting everyone on board…no one should hog the spectrum if it’s at the expense of communities that need it most.”

Mid-band crucial for 5G

Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute, said that the 500 megahertz of mid-band spectrum on the 12GHz band offers more speed and potential than any other mid-band spectrum being considered by the FCC. Using the 12Ghz band for 5G and authorizing the band for open shared access could “promote more competition, enhance the benefits of next-generation Wi-Fi, and help address the digital divide,” he said.

The RKF engineering study concluded that Starlink’s SpaceX low-earth orbit satellite terminals can reject 5G signals; technology used by mobile wireless networks will direct energy toward handsets, not satellite terminals; and 5G networks will largely be used in higher population areas while Starlink will target mostly rural areas.

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Spectrum

House Democrats Introduce Bill to Free Up Mid-Band Spectrum for Auction, Flexible Use

The bill would ensure adequate mid-band spectrum is available for commercial use to expand broadband availability.

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Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-California.

WASHINGTON, September 30, 2021 – Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Pennsylvania, and Doris Matsui, D-California, have introduced a bill that would free up new airwaves for wireless broadband use by the public, which the representatives claim would mean faster speeds and more responsive networks.

The Spectrum Innovation Act, unveiled Wednesday and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on which Doyle is the chairman, will “make available additional frequencies in the 3.1-3.45 GHz band for non-Federal use, shared Federal and non-Federal use, or a combination thereof, and for other purposes.”

The bill comes after Congressman Doyle told Broadband Breakfast last month that spectrum provisions in the Senate-passed infrastructure bill – which is slated to be voted on in the House on Thursday – deviated from the “traditional process” and that he planned to “look at that.”

Among the spectrum rules outlined in the infrastructure bill is the ability of federal officials to seek out spectrum frequencies for federal use, and to shovel money from the Spectrum Relocation Fund toward to the Defense Department for the “purpose of research and development, engineering studies, economic analysis, activities with respect to systems, or other planning activities.”

The affected spectrum in this case would be the 3.1 to 3.45 GigaHertz (GHz) band, a key mid-band series of radio frequencies that includes some federal users, that is the subject of this new bill.

“In addition to up to 200 megahertz of spectrum auctioned for mobile broadband, this bill will help usher in new, innovative wireless uses through opportunistic and other flexible spectrum uses,” Congressman Doyle said.

“For the United States to remain the pacesetter in wireless broadband, we must continue to ensure innovators have a reliable spectrum pipeline,” said congresswoman Matsui in a press release Wednesday.

“We stand at a pivotal moment in the development and deployment of next generation networks; the Spectrum Innovation Act will unleash the economic potential of this valuable mid-band spectrum and give us the tools necessary to meet the communications challenges of tomorrow,” she added.

The bill would require that an investigation be launched into even more frequencies within the bandwidth that could potentially be freed up and sold at auction.

A number of industry associations and public advocacy groups praised the bill.

“The Spectrum Innovation Act of 2021 will greatly benefit consumers by making a very large band of prime spectrum available to help fuel the world’s most robust 5G wireless ecosystem,” said Public Knowledge and the Open Technology Institute at New America in a joint statement.

“We commend Chairman Doyle and Representative Matsui for taking a holistic approach that recognizes the value of making spectrum available both by auction and through shared use by smaller broadband providers, schools, critical infrastructure and literally thousands of individual enterprises on a local basis. This is the policy framework for mid-band spectrum that is most likely to spur 5G competition and innovation, while also ensuring that critical military radar systems can continue to use the band without undue risk of harmful interference.”

The NCTA — Internet and Television Association and the Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association also came out to voice support for the bill.

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Spectrum

Dish Requests Temporary Authority to Use 600 MegaHertz Band Licenses for 5G Test in Las Vegas and Denver

Dish said it needs non-contiguous 600 MHz band licenses to test open-RAN 5G network in two markets.

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Dish President and CEO Erik Carlson

WASHINGTON, September 9, 2021 – Dish Network is asking the Federal Communications Commission to grant it a temporary license to use 600 MegaHertz (MHz) spectrum band licenses owned by another licensee for 5G tests in Las Vegas and Denver.

Dish said in a Wednesday submission to the FCC that Bluewater Wireless II, the owner of the 600 MHz spectrum band in question, has consented to allow Dish to use the spectrum under a regime called a special temporary authority.

Dish said it requires Bluewater’s spectrum licenses in the two cities to test and validate equipment for its 5G broadband network, using open radio access network technologies. The company said it needs the licenses to test carrier aggregation, where using its own licenses would be insufficient, because the two spectrum blocks cannot be contiguous.

“DISH anticipates needing more low-band spectrum in some markets to meet customer demand in the future,” the company said in its submission. “When and if additional 600 MHz spectrum becomes available, either when the Commission auctions unassigned spectrum or through future partnerships, DISH plans to use carrier aggregation at the market level to combine multiple 600 MHz assets to add capacity and improve data throughput speeds.”

“Grant of this STA will deliver important public interest benefits,” the company added. “In particular, the STA will enable DISH to put to use certain spectrum licensed to Bluewater that is not yet deployed.”

The test will end no later than the end of this year and the spectrum will only be used for testing and not for commercial purposes, Bluewater added in a letter to the FCC consenting to the arrangement.

The Denver-based company said it completed its first fully open RAN-compliant network communication in December 2020.

Dish announced that it was taking sign-ups for its 5G service in June, with the first city to get its so-called Project Gene5is being Las Vegas, Nevada.

Dish secured mobile wireless assets in a deal that allowed T-Mobile to absorb Sprint and entered the market in 2020 with the purchase of Boost Mobile and Ting Mobile. Dish has been widely expected to deliver wireless service that would add competition back in after the acquisition of Sprint.

The company announced this month that it is also purchasing Gen Mobile, a pre-paid and low-cost mobile service company, through its Boost brand.

Earlier this year, Boost bundled its K Health telehealth service in with its mobile service.

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