The Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC’s” or “Commission’s”) vote at its open meeting on October 23, 2018 on a Report and Order regarding the 3550-3700 MHz band (“3.5 GHz Band”) was split along party lines. This was hardly surprising given the criticism of the original order in 2015 by the then-Republican minority. As the now-Republican majority approved changes sought by the commercial mobile industry to the Priority Access License (“PAL”) rules, the lone Democratic Commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel dissented. Spectrum in and around the 3.5 GHz range is often touted as a lynchpin for initial 5G deployment internationally. The FCC, in response, seeks to promote greater investment in the band, by 5G proponents in particular by making PALs, which are to be auctioned, more attractive to commercial mobile service providers. The Order hopes to accomplish this by, among other things, increasing the size of PAL license areas from census tracts to counties, and extending license terms from three to ten years with a renewal expectancy. Commissioner Rosenworcel casts the action as a missed opportunity for spectrum policy that promotes innovation by favoring instead the same old, same old.
At its Open Meeting on October 24, the FCC took a major step in recrafting the licensing and other rules for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (“CBRS”) in the 3550-3700 MHz band (the “3.5 GHz band”) and promote 5G rollouts. Early in his tenure as FCC Chair which began in January of this year, Ajit Pai tasked Commissioner Michael O’Reilly with reexamining the regulatory framework in the band adopted in 2015, particularly as it applied to Priority Access Licenses (“PALs”). Within months, CTIA and T-Mobile filed petitions for rulemaking to make the licensing rules, from commercial wireless’s perspective more investment friendly. Now the Commission has moved ultra-rapidly to act on those petitions and issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to consider making rule changes largely consistent with those sought by those proponents. The Commission hopes to bolster commercial investment and deployment in the band convinced that, for large scale 5G deployments, providers need greater certainty than the Wheeler-era rules afford. Continue Reading October 2017 FCC Meeting Recap: Can We Be Better PALs? The FCC Seeks to Modify the Two-Year-Old Rules in the 3.5 GHz Band Citing the Need to Bolster Investment Incentives.