FCC to Promote Flexible and Intensive Use of 4.9 GHz Public Safety Band

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed to promote more flexible and intensive use of the 4.9 GHz band, a segment of spectrum that is currently designated for public safety communications.

They are now asking for proposals, technical in nature, to encourage greater use of and investment in this public safety band, drawing on input from the public safety community and other potential users. The Commission’s goal is to promote increased public safety use of the band and protect users from harmful interference while opening the spectrum to additional uses that will encourage a more robust market for equipment and greater innovation. The Commission seeks comment on whether an appropriate sharing mechanism could encourage more opportunistic use of the band while ensuring the priority, integrity, and security of public safety operations.

In 2002, the Commission designated 50 MHz of spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band to public safety. Although nearly 90,000 public safety entities are eligible for licenses in this band, there are fewer than 3,200 licenses in use. With such a low level of usage, the Commission is concerned that the band has fallen short of its potential. Public safety organizations and others have cited possible reasons, including difficulty in acquiring equipment, the cost of deployment, and concerns about harmful interference. The FCC has asked for proposals to address these concerns.