FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated an order to his colleagues Tuesday to open up the 2.5 GHz band for 5G. It’s the single largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3 GHz. Incumbent users, those who hold Educational Broadband Service (EBS), are wary of the proposed changes.
An FCC official told reporters, much of the band has been unused for more than 20 years —partly because arcane rules hampered carriers from putting the spectrum, “to its highest valued use.” The official said the, “use of the band is uneven and there are large ‘white spaces,’ especially in rural America.”
The FCC in May 2018, voted to consider releasing additional key EBS spectrum in the 2.5 GHz mid-band. At the time, Pai said the FCC was looking to ensure incumbents would retain their spectrum and also give new entities a chance to obtain licenses, and auction off remaining white spaces.
Now, Pai plans for the Commission to vote on an order at its July 10 meeting to modernize rules governing the 2.5 GHz band. The Report and Order will allow more flexibility in how the spectrum is used. The current rules stem from a time when regulators believed the band would only be used for EBS.
The FCC envisions allowing Tribes early access to the spectrum, followed by the establishment of a competitive bidding window for commercial users. The new framework will contain build-out requirements.
Incumbent licensees can still use the spectrum for educational purposes. They can increase their use of the spectrum, or, transfer their license to someone else. “It puts the decision in their hands as to how to make best use of the asset,” said the agency official.
The changes would help make the 2.5 GHz spectrum more available to those who want to use it for 5G services, he explained.
EBS licensees have pushed back against the changes, saying the spectrum should still be used for educational purposes. The Department of Education last week asked the FCC to reconsider its plan.
Jim Blew, an assistant secretary at the Education Department, urged the FCC, “to maintain current eligibility requirements for EBS licenses to ensure the educational and public interest nature of the EBS spectrum is preserved.” Blew supports modernization of the FCC’s EBS, however the department wishes to use the wireless spectrum to, “promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness,” reported edscoop.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
June 19, 2019
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