Press Release Rural Broadband Access Spectrum Reform

FCC Chairman Pai Moves to Leverage 12 GHz Band to Close Digital Divide

December 29, 2020 , , , , , , , ,
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Last week, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai circulated a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that could potentially leverage spectrum sharing technology to help close the digital divide. Adding the 12 GHz band to the agency’s “5G FAST Plan” would make an additional 500 MHz of contiguous spectrum available for two-way fixed and mobile 5G wireless broadband services, while protecting incumbent satellite uses (including satellite broadband) from harmful interference.

Public Knowledge commends Chairman Pai for moving this proceeding forward to determine whether this band offers an opportunity to increase competition, promote innovation, and improve services to underserved communities by encouraging spectrum sharing of the 12 GHz band — especially vital during a pandemic.

The following can be attributed to Kathleen Burke, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“From what we have heard, the NPRM looks at different ways to share this 500 MHz of valuable spectrum between existing licensees, potentially expanding the ability of Dish Network to offer competing mobile service. The NPRM also allegedly examines opportunities for unlicensed uses or other spectrum-sharing technologies, such as database management, using the same technology now used in 3.5 GHz. At the same time, the FCC is mindful that newly deployed broadband satellite services also hold tremendous promise for rural broadband. Any expanded use of the band must therefore protect the incumbent users from harmful interference.

“We are confident that technical solutions exist to achieve these goals. Twenty years have passed since the FCC adopted the last set of rules governing this band. Since then, we’ve greatly improved the technology, enabling shared-use of spectrum for multiple applications. We believe that the 12 GHz band can accommodate two-way, fixed, and mobile 5G wireless broadband service and secondary unlicensed uses without causing harmful interference to incumbent satellite providers.

“Expanding the 12 GHz band could potentially open valuable mid-band spectrum for innovative applications to help close the digital divide, providing an opportunity to deliver broadband in rural and tribal areas.

“We are glad to see the Commission opening this proceeding to determine whether more efficient use of the 12 GHz band is possible. We look forward to working with the Commission and all other stakeholders on this proceeding as another opportunity to encourage broadband competition and innovation without compromising incumbent operations.”

You may view our recent letter to the FCC for more information about the 12 GHz band.