FCC opens 100 MHz of mid-band spectrum for 5G deployments

March 17, 2021
New 3.45-3.55 GHz band rules put the FCC on track for a 5G auction later this year.
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Mobile Mohamed Hassan

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today took action to make valuable mid-band spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band available for auction to facilitate 5G wireless deployment across the contiguous United States.

As noted by an FCC statement:

Last year’s Consolidated Appropriations Act required the Commission to commence a system of competitive bidding for licenses in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band by the end of this year. The action taken today positions the agency to meet this obligation, and it marks progress towards fulfilling Congress’s directive in the MOBILE NOW Act for the FCC to work with NTIA to evaluate the feasibility of allowing commercial use in the 3.1-3.55 GHz band.
The rules adopted today reallocate 100 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.45 GHz band for flexible use wireless services. This Second Report and Order also establishes a framework for the 3.45 GHz band that will enable robust commercial use by an array of service providers, while also ensuring that federal incumbents are still protected from harmful interference where and when they require continued access to the band.

The agency noted that collectively, the 3.45 GHz band and the neighboring 3.5 GHz and 3.7 GHz bands represent 530 megahertz of contiguous mid-band spectrum for 5G, the next generation of wireless services.

Concurrently today, the FCC adopted a Public Notice seeking comment on procedures for the auction of 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum in the 3.45–3.55 GHz band that can be used to facilitate 5G deployment across the contiguous United States. Bidding in Auction 110 is expected to begin in early October 2021.

The FCC's statement continued:

Wider 5G deployment means that more people in more places will be more connected. 5G will bring its users faster download speeds and lower latency and will open doors to new and innovative digital tools to benefit consumers. With speeds as much as 10 to 100 times faster than present networks, 5G networks will kickstart the next big digital transformation. The proposed application and bidding procedures in today’s notice represent another key step toward unleashing the spectrum that will fuel that transformation.

The FCC said that Auction 110 will offer up to 100 megahertz of spectrum divided into ten 10-megahertz blocks licensed by geographic areas known as Partial Economic Areas (PEAs), for a total of 4,060 flexible-use licenses across the contiguous United States. The proposed auction procedures would include a clock phase for bidding on generic blocks in each geographic area followed by an assignment phase for bidding on frequency-specific license assignments.

The Public Notice proposes bidding credit caps and specific upfront payment and minimum opening bid amounts. The statement added, "Flexible-use licenses made available through this auction are subject to cooperative sharing requirements to protect federal incumbents, so the Public Notice proposes a reserve price of over $14.7 billion in order to meet the requirement that auction proceeds cover the expected sharing and relocation costs for federal users in the band."

The FCC's statement concluded:

Today’s Public Notice works in concert with new rules for the 3.45 GHz band that were also adopted today, establishing a framework for coordination of non-federal and federal use and establishing a band plan. In legislation passed last year, Congress required the Commission to commence a system of competitive bidding for licenses in the 3.45 GHz band by the end of 2021. Today’s actions position the Commission to fulfill that mandate.

For more information, visit https://www.fcc.gov/.