FCC freezes Channel 51 broadcast applications in victory for wireless

The FCC on Monday ordered a freeze in new broadcast TV applications for Channel 51, the top channel in the broadcast spectrum band, handing the CTIA and Rural Cellular Association a victory in the battle over spectrum ownership. The CTIA and RCA had petitioned the FCC in March to prohibit future licensing of Channel 51, which they argue can cause interference with 700 MHz A Block license holders. 

In the public notice, the FCC said it is temporarily freezing all new and pending applications for low-power licenses on Channel 51 while it considers the petition, and is encouraging broadcasters using Channel 51 to relocate. Additionally, the FCC also created a 60-day window for broadcasters seeking an assignment on Channel 51 to change their applications and file to get on a different channel. The freeze does not affect existing full-power or low-power TV stations on Channel 51, and those stations may continue to operate.

The RCA, which represents several Lower A Block license holders, including Cellular South, said the move by the FCC is a welcome development for those licenses holders. "By removing a source of potential uncertainty for Lower A Block 700 MHz licensees, the FCC has taken an important step to unlocking the promise of the 700 MHz band," RCA President Steve Berry said in a statement. He also called for the FCC to seek interoperability of the Lower 700 MHz band and merge Band Classes 12 and 17.

For its part, the CTIA said it appreciated the move and that it is an "important  first step in easing the interference environment between Channel 51 broadcasters and 700 MHz A Block wireless licensees."

"The application freeze and accompanying amendment window recognize the efforts by the wireless industry to continue deploying innovative mobile broadband services in the 700 MHz band, while permitting flexibility for TV stations to continue operating on alternate channels," Brian Josef, assistant vice president of regulatory affairs for CTIA, said in a statement. "We look forward to working with the commission to address the remaining issues in the petition." 

For more:
- see this FCC notice (PDF)
- see this Television Broadcast article
- see this RCA release

Related Articles:
AT&T, Cellular South debate 700 MHz interoperability at FCC
Study: Mandated interoperability, data roaming in 700 MHz key to saving rural jobs
FCC studying wireless spectrum grab for channel 51
Broadcasters band together on spectrum; wireless lobbies want channel 51