On 10 July the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to modernise the outdated regulatory framework for the 2.5GHz band to make the spectrum available for advanced wireless services, including 5G. According to the regulator, the 2.5GHz band – which it says is the single largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3GHz – offers favourable coverage and capacity characteristics for next-generation mobile services.
As per the FCC media statement, the new order gives incumbent entities more flexibility in how they use this spectrum and provides opportunities for other entities, including Tribal Nations, to access unused spectrum in this band. In addition, the order eliminates restrictions on the types of entities that can hold licenses as well as educational use requirements (see below), while preserving incumbent licensees’ private contractual arrangements and provisions in existing leases. Further, the order removes limitations on leases entered into on a going-forward basis under the FCC’s secondary markets rules, which will create incentives to roll out in rural areas.
Additionally, the order establishes a priority filing window for rural Tribal Nations to provide them with an opportunity to obtain unassigned 2.5GHz spectrum to address the communications needs of their communities. The remaining unassigned spectrum will be available for commercial use via a competitive bidding process. To maximise participation by small wireless service providers, the auction will allow for small business, rural service provider and Tribal lands bidding credits.
TeleGeography notes that the 2.5GHz band is currently reserved for Educational Broadband Service (EBS) use. The band is understood to comprise 114MHz of spectrum, which has been earmarked for educational TV use since 1995 but remains unused in many rural areas.