FCC tees up public notice on 37, 39, 47 GHz auction

FCC headquarters
The FCC is gearing up to consider procedures for the next big millimeter wave auction. (Ser Amantio di Nicolao/ CC BY-3.0)

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that at its April 12 open meeting, the commission will consider a public notice on auction procedures for the upper 37, 39 and 47 GHz spectrum bands.

That auction will mark the third major spectrum auction to take place this year. The 28 GHz auction concluded earlier this year, and last week, the FCC started the bidding process for the 24 GHz auction

Anyone interested in participating in the 37, 39 and 47 GHz auction will get a chance to weigh in as the public notice makes proposals and asks questions about the essential features of that auction.

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“For example, with respect to auction procedures, we're seeking comment on plans for a new incentive auction, in which we propose to use an ascending clock auction format for the offered licenses and then hold a sealed-bid assignment phase,” Pai wrote in a blog post entitled The Next Big Thing. “We also propose offering 100 megahertz blocks of spectrum licensed by Partial Economic Area service areas."

In combination, the upper 37 GHz and the 39 GHz bands would offer the largest amount of contiguous spectrum in the millimeter wave bands for flexible-use wireless services—a total of 2,400 MHz, he noted.

“And the 47 GHz band, no slouch itself, will provide an additional 1,000 MHz of millimeter wave spectrum for such services. Combined with the two preceding auctions, the Commission will be making available almost five gigahertz of spectrum for commercial use this year,” Pai said.

RELATED: FCC’s 24 GHz auction raises $304M in first day

On a related but separate note, Pai also circulated a proposal that the commission will vote on at its April meeting that would facilitate next-generation wireless services in the 37 GHz band. He said that proposal would finalize arrangements for the upper 37 GHz band by establishing a process for the U.S. Department of Defense to operate there on a shared basis in limited circumstances. The proposal also would establish rules authorizing Fixed-Satellite Service operators, such as satellite broadband service operators, to license individual earth stations in the 50 GHz band.

The FCC also is slated to tackle some outdated rules. It currently has rules on the books that prohibit state and local restrictions that unreasonably impair the ability of users to deploy what are called "over-the-air reception devices," Pai said, noting that these rules were developed a long time ago with video services in mind rather than broadband.

The rules don't apply to antennas operating as hub or relay antennas used to transmit signals to or receive signals from multiple customer locations—“in short, the kind of equipment that could be used for innovative new wireless services,” he explained. So the vote on April 12 will be on a proposal to update those rules, paving the way for next-generation networking technologies that operate over millimeter waves—specifically, things like the base stations and hubs that make up mesh networks, he said.

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