AT&T wants a C-band spectrum auction to happen as quickly as possible and tells the FCC a private auction is the best way to accomplish that goal. In a recent meeting with Commission attorneys from the General Counsel’s office, AT&T said, “significant progress” is being made among stakeholders on the issue.
“There is increasing agreement among the parties that the Commission should make 300 MHz of C-band spectrum available for terrestrial 5G use, while maintaining satellite connectivity and establishing robust interference protections for existing users,” the carrier says in a filing.
AT&T does not oppose a private auction but believes it would stay on schedule only if the FCC oversees it, otherwise it could become mired in legal challenges. The agency should invite public comment on clear technical and service rules for an auction and a transition plan, according to the carrier.
“Under AT&T’s proposal, the Commission would begin by using its authority under Section 316 to modify the space station owners’ licenses to create a partitioned authorization for flexible terrestrial use. The grant of partitioned flexible use authorizations would be subject to the condition that space station owners sell the partitioned spectrum, via a private auction (which could be conducted by the C-Band Alliance), by a date certain,” writes AT&T.
The carrier says its proposal would be a true secondary market sale. “It would involve only the lawful modification of existing licenses and a direct sale of those modified existing licenses by the existing licensees.” Although all proposals in the record for reallocation of this spectrum will require some modification of the licenses of both space station owners and earth station owners, AT&T says the license-modification aspect of its proposal is well-supported by established precedent.
Additionally, there needs to be a clear transition plan to demonstrate that existing uses will be protected, that the transition steps and costs are known, and that transition costs will be fully reimbursed, emphasizes the carrier. Without this plan, “that makes clear how current stakeholders will be made whole, current C-band licensees and their customers will face significant risks of fundamental business disruption and, as a result, are far more likely to oppose and resist the reallocation, which could only lead to delays,” cautions AT&T.
The Commission is the only entity that has the perspective and the expertise to gather information from all relevant stakeholders—wireless carriers, space station owners, and terrestrial C-band users—and to design rules that take all of the stakeholders’ legitimate interests into account, believes AT&T. The carrier sums up its thoughts as, “Measure twice, cut once.”
by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
November 6, 2019