On March 20, 2019, the Commission released a Public Notice (“Notice”) announcing the initial 39 GHZ reconfiguration procedures for the incentive auction for upper microwave flexible use service (“UMFUS”) licenses in the 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands (“Auction 103”) (GN Docket No. 14-177; AU Docket No. 19-59). This Notice describes the processes by which the 39 GHz band will be reconfigured to prepare for Auction 103 and announces an Order of Modification of existing 39 GHz licenses.

The Notice outlines the processes for initial auction commitments for reconfiguration (“Initial Commitments”), and details the FCC’s proposals to 1) temporarily freeze processing of future applications for transfers and assignments of 39 GHz licenses to facilitate the reconfiguration process; 2) modify incumbents’ 39 GHz licenses according to the FCC’s proposed order of modification; and 3) seek comment on a proposed path to reconfiguration in preparation for Auction 103.

39 GHZ Reconfiguration Process – The Notice describes the procedures and processes for Auction 103, and outlines the major steps for the 39 GHz band reconfiguration process. The steps of the process are as follows:

  • Verifying 39 GHz Aggregated Holdings Data – Appendix B provides a summary of each 39 GHz incumbent’s aggregated holdings by PEA and reflects consolidated holdings.
  • File Excepted Transfers and Assignments if Applicable – The Notice freezes transfers and assignments of 39 GHz licenses, with an exception for commonly controlled entities. Commonly controlled entities may file an application to transfer/assign all of their 39 GHz licenses to another commonly controlled entity.
  • Review Updated 39 GHz Reconfiguration Procedures and Updated Aggregated Holdings Data – The Commission will adopt the final 39 GHz band reconfiguration procedures in a future public notice with updated data.
  • Reconfigured 39 GHz Incumbent Holdings Public Notice – The future Public Notice procedures will by applied to match the new band plan and service areas and inform incumbents in PEAs receiving 100 MHz licenses and the number of such licenses if it chooses to accept the modified licenses.
  • File FCC Form 175-A – Each incumbent must file an Incumbent 39 GHz Licensee Short-Form Application (FCC Form 175). The Form 175-A filing window will open no sooner than 30 days after the timeline is announced.
  • Initial Commitment Process – Each incumbent may commit to: 1) accepting modified licenses based on a reconfiguration of its holdings proposed by the FCC; or 2) accepting modified licenses based on its alternative reconfiguration; or 3) relinquishing spectrum usage rights under all its 39 GHz licenses in exchange for an incentive payment. The Initial Commitment deadline will be no sooner than 60 days after the release of the future Incumbent Holdings Public Notice. Any incumbent that fails to make a selection by the deadline will be deemed to have selected Option 1, the FCC’s proposed reconfiguration.
  • Round Zero – An incumbent opting to relinquish all of its existing spectrum usage rights (Option 3) will have an opportunity to redistribute its MHz-pops that are equivalent to a partial PEA license based on its aggregated holdings in the Round Zero process.
  • Existing Licenses Pending the Auction – Each incumbent licensee will retain its existing 39 GHz licenses until after the close of the auction and the announcement of winning bidders for new licenses.
  • Auction of New Licenses – Following the Initial Commitment process, potential bidders for new licenses will take pre-auction actions necessary to become a qualified bidder, and incumbents electing to relinquish licenses will be permitted to bid.
  • Post-Incentive Auction Transition and Incentive Payments – The FCC will issue modified licenses and cancel relinquished licenses following the announcement of winning auction bidders, and will make incentive payments owed associated with winning bids.

Final Actions – The Notice implements a freeze on transfer and assignment applications for 39 GHz licenses, and the final order of modification. However, the freeze exempts any 39 GHz licensees that are commonly controlled entities and intend to consolidate their licenses so that one entity is the licensee for the “consolidated holdings.” These entities should file transfer or assignment applications as soon as possible, and no later than April 15, 2019. Additionally, the Notice modifies the spectrum usage rights of existing 39 GHz licenses as set forth in the Spectrum Frontiers Fourth R&O (“Fourth R&O”).

Quantifying Existing 39 GHz Licenses – Incumbent licensees are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of their ULS data. Any necessary corrections should be made as soon as possible and no later than April 15, 2019. As determined by the Fourth R&O, the 2010 Census data will be used to determine the population covered by each existing 39 GHz license. Finally, the Commission proposes to create an index for setting relative weights for spectrum holdings by PEA using the weighted average of relative price indices for Auctions 102, 1002, and 97.

Reconfiguring Aggregated 39 GHz Holdings for Modified Licenses and Initial Commitment Process – The Notice details the technical reconfiguration details in Appendix A: Technical Guide, and provides a comprehensive summary of the steps listed above, including the Initial Commitment process and license transition process. We encourage interested parties to review these details carefully.

Comments are due by April 15, 2019.

Reply comments are due April 26, 2019.

Please contact us if you have any questions.