FCC tees up 2.5 GHz EBS spectrum reforms

spectrum light (Pixabay)
The FCC is proposing to modernize the EBS spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band to allow more flexible use. (Pixabay)

The FCC didn’t have to deliberate for long today as it voted unanimously to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that contemplates ways to put mostly fallow 2.5 GHz spectrum to use for things like 5G.

The spectrum from 2496-2690 MHz constitutes the single largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3 gigahertz and is prime for next-generation mobile operations, but significant portions of the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum in this band currently lie fallow across about one-half of the United States, mostly in rural areas. Access to the spectrum has been strictly limited since 1995, and current licensees are subject to outdated regulations, according to the FCC.

The ideas teed up in the NPRM seek to allow more efficient and effective use of the spectrum band and to provide new opportunities for EBS eligible entities, rural Tribal Nations and commercial entities to obtain unused 2.5 GHz spectrum.

“We need to get this valuable spectrum into the hands of those who will provide service, including 5G, to Americans across the country, particularly in rural areas where the spectrum is currently mostly unused,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Today, we take the first step toward putting that asset to work.”

RELATED: Editor’s Corner—Sprint isn’t the only one with 2.5 GHz aspirations

The NRPM proposes to give current and future licensees more flexibility and proposes filing windows that would give entities an opportunity to acquire EBS spectrum for the first time since 1995. It also seeks comment on the appropriate way to make spectrum available, including auctions.

Efforts have been underway for more than a year to get the FCC to, at a minimum, put out an NPRM so that the EBS portion of the 2.5 GHz spectrum could be put to better use. In 2014, some of the major players, including the Wireless Communications Association, the National EBS Association and the Catholic Television Network, got together and submitted a proposal on how to license the spectrum.

RELATED: EBS portions of 2.5 GHz band headed for big update at FCC

Sprint, which has long boasted the value of its own licensed 2.5 GHz spectrum assets, told FierceWirelessTech last month that it supports the proceeding. Sprint said that adoption of new licensing opportunities for EBS licensees will further strengthen its existing 4G LTE and future 5G deployments.

The company has assured the FCC that it will work with the EBS community and the FCC to promote a robust record in the long-awaited proceeding.