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.
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On June 22, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) conditionally granted OneWeb’s proposed 720 Non-Geostationary Satellite Orbit (“NGSO”) constellation access to the U.S. market in select frequency bands.   OneWeb filed a Petition for Declaratory Ruling with the FCC or U.S. market access rather than an application because it states that its space system license application will be acted upon by the United Kingdom.

The FCC order approving the Petition (the “OneWeb Approval Order”) characterizes the grant as “the first of its kind for a new generation of large… NGSO systems” which the Commission hopes will facilitate “high-speed, affordable broadband connectivity” nationwide.  The FCC’s grant was conditioned on, among other things, ITU coordination, power limits, avoidance of in-line interference, orbital debris mitigation, the outcome of pending and future rulemakings, and satisfaction of bond and milestone requirements.  The OneWeb grant remains subject to the outcomes of several other pending proceedings (as well as any future FCC rules) and the requirement that OneWeb will share spectrum with other NGSO systems the Commission approves in the same spectrum bands and other users of the spectrum.  The OneWeb Approval Order makes clear that any earth station applications will be subject to a separate filing and review cycle.
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