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FCC Frees Up More Mid-Band Spectrum for 5G

By Rachel Jewett | September 30, 2020
Federal Communications Commission. Photo: FCC

Federal Communications Commission. Photo: FCC

The FCC moved Wednesday to make 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band available for 5G deployment. The mid-band spectrum is primarily military use, and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) operates high-powered defense radar systems on fixed, mobile, shipborne, and airborne platforms in this band. The adopted rules remove the secondary, non-federal allocations from the 3.3-3.55 GHz band. The Report and Order adopted Wednesday relocates non-federal radiolocation licensees to the 2.9-3.0 GHz band, allowing them to continue operating there on a secondary basis to federal operations.

In addition, the FCC adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes allocating the 3.45-3.55 GHz spectrum band for flexible-use service. Chairman Ajit Pai said the FCC proposes adding co-primary, non-federal fixed and mobile (except aeronautical mobile) allocation to the band and seeks comment on coordination requirements between federal incumbents and new, commercial flexible-use licensees. 

The FCC’s announcement came after the White House said in August it planned to make the section of military-use mid-band spectrum available to the commercial sector, with plans to begin auctioning it off in December 2021 and ready for use by mid-2022. Pai said this action puts the FCC on course to auction this spectrum next year.

This is another step by the FCC to make more mid-band spectrum available for 5G, and make low and high-band spectrum available for flexible use. The FCC is on track to begin auctioning the C-band, 280 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GHz band in December.