37, 39, 47 GHz auction on FCC’s December meeting agenda

FCC headquarters
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is circulating an order that would enable the commission to move forward with an auction of the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands by the end of 2019. (Ser Amantio di Nicolao/CC BY-3.0)

The FCC has another jam-packed meeting teed up for Dec. 12, when it’s set to make more millimeter wave spectrum available for 5G.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is circulating an order that would allow the commission to move ahead with an auction of the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands by the end of 2019. The chairman previously announced his intent to make this an agenda item this year, and in his latest blog post, he noted that it will mark the second time the FCC will use an incentive auction format.

In combination, the upper 37 GHz and the 39 GHz bands offer the largest amount of contiguous spectrum in the millimeter-wave bands for flexible-use wireless services — a total of 2,400 megahertz — and the 47 GHz band will provide an additional 1,000 megahertz of millimeter-wave spectrum for such services, he said.

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Combined with the 28 and 24 GHz auction, all of the millimeter wave auctions will free up more spectrum than is currently used to provide terrestrial mobile broadband by all providers combined.

Last week, the FCC launched the first of two auctions of high-band spectrum—28 GHz, to be followed by 24 GHz. While some industry stakeholders had urged the FCC to include more millimeter bands together in one big auction, the commission rejected calls for including the 39 GHz band because, for one, it’s too complicated to unravel and would have delayed the 24 GHz auction. Holding the 39 GHz auction in the second half of 2019 will give the FCC and industry time to get it ready for auction.

RELATED: FCC chair tees up plan for single auction of 37, 39, 47 GHz bands in 2019

The 39 GHz band in particular has had a thorny, and some say messy, history. It was intended for Wireless Local Loop (WLL) services back in the 1990s, but that never panned out. The FCC attempted different strategies but the band ended up with scattered licenses and overlapping geographies.

Last summer, the FCC devised a plan to clean it up and get it ready for both incumbents and new users in an incentive auction will be patterned after the commission’s broadcast incentive auction.