FCC's 3.5-GHz Vote Gets Divided Reaction

Stakeholders weigh in on broadband spectrum rule changes

D.C. was quick to weigh in Tuesday (Oct. 24) on the FCC's divided vote to propose changes in its rules for use of the 3.5-GHz band.

"Mobile Future strongly supports the Commission's action on enhancing the 3.5-GHz band," said Robert McDowell, former FCC commissioner and currently chief public policy adviser for Mobile Future. "By improving licensed options in this band, the FCC is strengthening America's leadership in mobile. The rulemaking proposes win-win-win flexibility for all participants in the mobile Internet space. For instance, longer license terms and adding the expectation of license renewals helps players of all sizes because capital markets need such certainty to fund the build-out of next-gen networks. Small and large service providers alike will benefit from the easier flow of capital which will result in more abundant availability of equipment and devices needed to fuel the 5G and IoT revolution."

CTIA vice president Scott Bergman said the organization “applauds the FCC for proposing common sense changes to the 3.5-GHz band in a way that will not delay new wireless service to Americans. Today’s action will unlock new investment, jobs and innovation and help the United States win the global race to 5G wireless.”

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Public Knowledge was not nearly as sanguine.

“Rolling back the 3.5-GHz licensing Order will undo years of the FCC’s work to promote both targeted rural wireless deployments using the 3.5-GHz band and efficient uses of limited spectrum. Today’s proposals, if ultimately adopted, would substantially limit innovative uses of the 3.5-GHz band, such as industrial Internet-of-Things deployments. Additionally, the Commission’s proposals to drastically expand the geographic size of the Priority Access Licenses and length of license terms will vastly increase the cost of licenses, preventing rural wireless broadband providers and new entrants from using the band to provide competitive, targeted wireless deployments in unserved and underserved rural communities.

The FCC asked about increasing license sizes to promote more interest in the band, but actually did not propose it, which is what helped Commissioner Mignon Clyburn concur rather than dissent. The vote was 4-1, with Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel strongly dissenting, expressing similar reservations to those of Public Knowledge.

Charter, which was looking for larger licenses, but not too large, was hopeful that would be the ultimate conclusion when a final vote was taken.

“With the right licensing rules, Charter believes the 3.5-GHz band could be a key component of our wireless strategy and provide a cost effective solution for delivering fixed wireless broadband in rural areas," Charter said. "We have already made significant investments in robust trials using this spectrum and look forward to working with the commission as it refines the rules, hoping that any changes support the goals of promoting wireless competition, investment and quick deployment.”