Mimosa, Cincinnati Bell among those pushing for new rules for 3.7-4.2 GHz band

cell tower
Licensees could obtain licenses for up to 160 megahertz in an area under the proposal.

More than 20 service providers, equipment vendors, trade associations and nonprofit public advocacy groups announced the formation of the new Broadband Access Coalition, which is calling on the FCC to authorize a new, licensed, point-to-multipoint (P2MP) fixed wireless service in the 3700-4200 MHz spectrum band.

The spectrum band currently is used primarily by fixed satellite services (FSS), and although petitioners say the band is under-used, satellite operators say that the 3700-4200 MHz band is of vital importance to the satellite industry.

"The band supports several applications including crucial GEO fixed satellite services to government, military and commercial customers both in the U.S and around the world," said Satellite Industry Association (SIA) President Tom Stroup in a statement provided to FierceWirelessTech. “The band currently is shared with fixed wireless systems, so SIA and its members will examine closely the modifications petitioners seek to the existing system.”

The co-founders of the new coalition are Mimosa Networks, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) and the Open Technology Institute at New America. Other members include Cincinnati Bell, the Consumer Federation of America, the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, the American Library Association, Rise Broadband, Telrad Networks and Public Knowledge. A full list can be found here (PDF).

Jaime Fink, co-founder and chief product officer at Mimosa Networks, told FierceWirelessTech that he understands the satellite companies are getting hit on several fronts but believes the spectrum is underutilized, and “we do not know if what their actual utilization is.” 

The coalition’s petition proposes that FSS licensees be required to report accurate and current location and technical information to the commission as a precursor to a more spectrally efficient “real-time, realworld” FSS protection scheme.

The coalition also says that the 3700-4200 MHz band satisfies two fundamental requirements for spectrum to provide fixed wireless broadband access to residential and small business customers:

  • Propagation: The spectrum must provide nLOS capabilities within a reasonable radius.
  • Capacity: The availability of 500 megahertz of contiguous spectrum can enable multiple providers to deliver gigabit and near-gigabit broadband access.

They also say the 3700-4200 MHz band can be modernized easily and quickly. The band already is used for commercial purposes and doesn't need to be transferred from or shared with federal government users. There are no ground-based or coastal federal users to protect, and thus no need for sophisticated hierarchical sharing methods or exclusion zones to protect sensitive military uses, according to the petition.

Fink said that 500 megahertz is particularly important. The 3.7-4.2 GHz band is next to the 3.5 GHz CBRS band, but there’s only 150 megahertz of CBRS spectrum being made available; plus, wireless carriers are trying to change the rules. In the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, licensees could obtain licenses for up to 160 megahertz in an area, so a minimum of three separate operators could be licensed in an area, providing for competition.

The satellite industry says it wants to make sure there’s no negative impact. “While we agree with the overall goal of the petitioners to bring more broadband access to those without service, the FCC should make sure it does not negatively impact the existing users of the 3700 MHz-4200 MHz band because other broadband services are available now with more options on the way,” Stroup said.

SIA also took the opportunity to highlight the fact that the satellite industry already provides broadband services with coverage of all of the continental United States. “With the launch and deployment of two new multiple high throughput, high speed broadband satellites this year and with more underway, plus future plans for non-geostationary satellite (‘NGSO’) constellations for low-latency broadband, U.S. consumers will have ever-increasing choice in receiving satellite broadband services, no matter where they are,” he said.  

The petition seeks expedited adoption under Section 7 of the Communications Act, which requires a public interest determination within a year, so presumably it won’t languish at the FCC for years without some kind of decision.