FCC releases 1675-1680 MHz NPRM for May 9 meeting

FCC headquarters
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is circulating a proposal to reallocate spectrum in the 1675–1680 MHz band for shared use between incumbent federal operations and new, nonfederal fixed or mobile operations. (Ser Amantio di Nicolao/CC BY-3.0)

The FCC on Thursday released the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and Order that the full commission will consider at its May 9 meeting, teeing up a slice of midband spectrum that has been in play for years.

In 2012, Ligado Networks—then known as LightSquared—petitioned the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to determine whether to allocate the 1675-1680 MHz band for nonfederal terrestrial mobile use on a shared basis with federal users. In the new NPRM (PDF), the FCC doesn’t address Ligado’s petition for rulemaking but does incorporate the record from the proceeding into the new docket.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced on Wednesday that he would be circulating a proposal to reallocate spectrum in the 1675-1680 MHz band for shared use, noting that the president’s fiscal year 2020 budget calls on the commission to “either auction or use fee authority to assign spectrum frequencies between 1675–1680 megahertz for flexible use by 2020, subject to sharing arrangements with federal weather satellites.”    

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Ligado promptly responded, with Ligado Networks Chairman Ivan Seidenberg—who was chairman of Verizon from 2000 to 2011—commending the FCC and Chairman Pai for moving forward on the commission’s “long-standing commitment” to auction or assign 1675–1680 MHz. He stressed that the action will accelerate and incentivize investments in 5G in the U.S.

“The entire wireless industry desperately needs more midband spectrum for emerging 5G networks, and FCC Chairman Pai deserves credit for recognizing the importance of this spectrum to our country’s future,” Seidenberg noted in a press release. “This NPRM has significant potential to free up critical midband spectrum that will help ensure the United States commercializes the wireless spectrum necessary to accelerate, strengthen, and secure 5G networks across the country. As a company, we are ready to invest in this spectrum and help deploy the 5G technologies that will not only improve all our lives but also give our economy a competitive edge against the rest of the world.”

Ligado Networks CEO Doug Smith suggested the company’s approach on this 5 MHz band could be used as a model for collaboration and sharing between U.S. government and commercial spectrum users.

“Following years of technical analysis underscoring its feasibility, Ligado’s advocacy for the frequencies to be utilized for shared commercial use has been consistent with longstanding bipartisan goals to maximize the value of our nation’s limited spectrum resource,” he stated in the release. “We believe federal agencies and industry stakeholders can successfully perform respective missions in harmony, and we remain confident that this proposal advances wireless innovation while both protecting NOAA’s critical weather data for all users and ensuring its accessibility to the entire American public. We look forward to participating in the NPRM process over the coming year.”

RELATED: American Tower, CCA, WIA on board with Ligado’s plans to use midband spectrum

Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) President and CEO Steve Berry thanked the FCC, saying all spectrum, including the 1675-1680 MHz bands, provides real opportunities for carriers to deploy next-generation technologies and meet consumers’ increasing demands for advanced mobile services. 

“While CCA looks forward to reviewing the draft item slated for consideration at next month’s Open Meeting, freeing-up more midband spectrum for terrestrial use is especially important for the overall economy, as the U.S. attempts to compete in the global race to 5G,” Berry said. 

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