Hear ye, hear ye – 12 GHz band still in play, says 5G coalition

digital divide
Getting a move on the 12 GHz band could help address the nation's problems with the digital divide, according to the 5Gfor12GHz Coalition. (Getty Images)

Even though it appears as if the Biden Administration has forgotten there’s an empty seat at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and a permanent chair yet to be named, that doesn’t mean a proposal for the 12 GHz band has to remain idle.

With Congress “on the cusp of advancing” an infrastructure bill that includes $65 billion targeted at broadband connectivity, it’s imperative that the FCC gets its spectrum resources ready to meet the connectivity demands, according to the 5Gfor12GHz Coalition.

“The FCC can take action now – without waiting on the legislative process – to open up 500 megahertz of contiguous spectrum ideal for accelerating the 5G mobile and wireless networks, improving opportunistic access to spectrum, and strengthening the capacity of Wi-Fi and other unlicensed services,” the coalition told the FCC in a Thursday filing (pdf).

The FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to expand the 12 GHz band for two-way terrestrial services has already gone through the public notice and comment period, “with ample opportunity for parties to weigh in and share data,” the coalition said.  Therefore, it’s time for the relevant bureaus at the commission to review the technical data and make their recommendations, the group added.

There’s discussion in Washington, D.C., about closing the broadband gap, and it’s largely bipartisan; both parties agree something needs to be done. And while the FCC’s majority usually reflects the party of the president, it’s currently 2:2, with Democrats Jessica Rosenworcel, the acting chair, and Geoffrey Starks, and Republicans Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington.

RELATED: Massive MIMO, adaptive beam forming spiff up 12 GHz band

The filing was really meant to point out to the FCC and the larger community in Washington, D.C., that with the infrastructure bill up in the air, there are still things that can be done to close the digital divide, according to Joe Lockhart, co-chair of the coalition.

“This was just a reminder to interested parties that there is a process going on that is relevant to a lot of the stuff that’s in the infrastructure bill now that goes to some of those policy goals,” he told Fierce.

Dish: Don’t re-auction 12 GHz

More than two dozen companies and organizations comprise the 5Gfor12GHz Coalition, including Dish Network, which is the single largest holder of MVDDS spectrum. That means if the rules were changed in favor of using the 12 GHz band for 5G, rather than competing interests like those proposed by SpaceX, Dish would emerge as a big beneficiary. In fact, Dish is behind a petition several years ago to get the FCC to re-examine the 12 GHz band.

T-Mobile, which is entangled in a separate battle with Dish, wants the FCC to conduct an auction of 12 GHz airwaves if it’s going to change the rules in favor of two-way communications for 5G. Dish doesn’t want that, and it re-upped its argument in its own filing with the FCC on Friday.

"T-Mobile supports a reauction of the 12 GHz band, presumably so that it can further increase its own extensive spectrum holdings at the expense of DISH—the new innovative disrupter in the mobile industry,” Dish told the commission.

RELATED: T-Mobile sharpens argument for 12 GHz auction

“The Commission should not re-auction the already auctioned 12 GHz band for terrestrial services, and should proceed with immediately authorizing two-way 5G services in the band,” Dish said in its filing. “Contrary to T-Mobile’s misguided arguments on the merits, an auction is neither a sound nor a permitted course of action.”