The FCC has voted unanimously to seek comment on a draft framework for auctioning 70 MHz of the 3.5 GHz (CBRS) midband spectrum for 5G, an auction of priority access licenses (or PALs) that has now been scheduled to start on June 25, 2020.
FCC chair Ajit Pai said the FCC was remaking rules that did not fit the band, a remake that would make it more attractive for 5G.
The agency is proposing to offer seven PALs in county-based licenses (22,631 PALs nationwide) Each license consists of a a 10-megahertz unpaired channel, with bidders allowed to bid on up to four PALs in any single license area.
The FCC is also proposing rules for "bidding credit caps, upfront payments, bidding eligibility, minimum opening bids, bid removal and withdrawal, and other auction procedures."
The FCC last week authorized initial commercial CBRS deployments in the band.
The FCC voted Oct. 23, 2018, to change the rules on licenses for the 3.5 GHz band to make it more attractive for providers of 5G, which includes cable ops looking to up their mobile broadband game.
The move was billed as targeted changes to spur investment in the band and promote more efficient use, including for 5G. The main adjustments were the decision to increase the sizes of priority access licenses (PALs) from census tracts to the larger county-sized licenses, though Pai pointed out that was a compromise from the larger partial economic area (PEA) licenses some had advocated for.
"Hallelujah!," said FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly. "With every passing day CBRS is becoming more and more a reality, and now we have an auction date. "Now the true fun begins. We get to see what America's innovators, entrepreneurs and creative minds will make of this band."
“Earlier this year I wrote in WIRED that if the United States wants to lead in the next generation of wireless service, we have work to do," said commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. "It starts with this agency making it a priority to auction mid-band spectrum. It is the only way we can extend the promise of competitive 5G wireless service to everyone, everywhere across the country. So I support today’s decision, which—at long last—kicks off a process to bring mid-band spectrum to market.” Rosenworcel would have preferred that the licenses not be expanded to county-size, but rather kept at a size that smaller entities could use. She also said she would have preferred the FCC hold the auction sooner.
"5G services will rely on every spectrum band—low, mid, and high," said commissioner Brendan Carr. "Low-band will provide the coverage needed to bring 5G to every corner of America. Mid-band will provide mobility at fast speeds. And high-band will provide the fiber-like connections needed to support a full range of 5G offerings. All three bands are essential. And so I am proud of this Commission’s all-of-the-above approach to spectrum, which we continue in this Public Notice."