The FCC today proposed two separate actions meant to free up more spectrum for wireless broadband use. The first covers the rules governing the 3.5 GHz band (Citizens Broadband Radio Service). The agency believes simplifying the already-established 2015 rules will make the 3.5 GHz band more attractive for investment. Most importantly, the FCC wants to change the size of Priority Access Licenses (PAL) from census tracts to counties and extend PAL license terms from three years to 10, as well as make those licenses renewable. Other proposals would ensure seven PALs are in each license area, rural and tribal entities would be allotted bidding credits, would establish end-of-term performance requirements, and would allow for the partition and disaggregation of PALs. The FCC’s Republican commissioners all believe this will boost carrier interest in the band. As proposed, the size of the PALs was a compromise. Smaller wireless providers wished to keep the PALs at the tract level, while larger providers hoped to see the PALs become much larger. The agency’s lone Democrat says the rules are a backward step and dissented in the vote, which passed 3-1. Separately, the agency unanimously agreed on a proposal to open up the 6 GHz band to unlicensed access. The agency wants to free up 1200 MHz for used by unlicensed WiFi devices in the 6 GHz band, which technically falls between 5.925 GHz and 7.125 GHz. This band is mostly used by license holders that beam microwaves point-to-point, and by the Broadcast Auxiliary Service and Cable Television Relay Service. Any unlicensed devices used in the band could not interfere with these existing, licensed services. A handful of other rules would regulate indoor versus outdoor use of the 6 GHz band. The FCC is accepting comments on the proposed changes.
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