FCC to Auction 3450 - 3550 MHz Spectrum Band for Commercial 5G Operations

The FCC announced that it will auction sharing rights to the upper 50 MHz of the 3300 – 3500 MHz secondary amateur radio allocation for commercial 5G interests in the wake of the Department of Defense (DoD) agreement to share spectrum at 3450 – 3550 MHz. The entire band currently supports a variety of military operations and amateur radio. Amateur radio has a long history of peaceful coexistence with the Department of Defense as a secondary user of this spectrum.

Late last year, the FCC proposed to delete the amateur secondary band from 3300 – 3500 MHz as well as the amateur-satellite allocation from 3400 – 3410 MHz. The FCC could auction the 100 MHz of spectrum in early 2022. This latest move makes a contiguous band of spectrum from 3450 – 3980 MHz available for commercial 5G networks.

For a number of years, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and FCC have focused on the 3450 – 3550 MHz band as the spectrum most conducive to sharing with commercial users. The new statements announced that a framework for sharing has been worked out.

In December 2019, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in WT Docket 19-348 proposing to delete the 3300 – 3500 MHz secondary amateur band. ARRL strongly opposed the move in its comments on the NPRM, which put forward the FCC’s plans to remove “existing non-federal secondary radiolocation and amateur allocations” in the 3300 – 3500 MHz band and to consider options for relocating incumbent non-federal operations.

ARRL Washington Counsel David Siddall said the spectrum below 3450 MHz presents a more difficult government/commercial sharing scenario, and that future sharing there remains uncertain. He stated that they continue to argue that the amateur secondary allocation should not be deleted in this band. They recognize that their access to secondary, and ask only to be given to use their considerable technical skills to work around whatever future uses may be implemented in this spectrum.

The spectrum repurposing is in response to the MOBILE NOW [Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless] Act, enacted in 2018 to make new spectrum available for mobile and fixed wireless broadband use.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that together with the spectrum being made available for 5G in the C-band as well as the 3.5 GHz band, they are now on track to have a 530 MHz of mid-band spectrum available for 5G from 3.45 to 3.98 GHz. The FCC looks forward to moving quickly to adopt service rules for the 3.45 GHz band and then hold an auction to bring this prime mid-band spectrum to market.

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