FCC Releases C-Band Report & Order

On Tuesday, March 3, 2020, the FCC released the Report and Order and Order of Proposed Modification (“Order”) to reform the use of the C-Band (3.7-4.2 GHz), which is currently used by satellite services, to make 280 MHz of the 500 MHz spectrum available for 5G operations and flexible use (GN Docket No. 18-122). This item was adopted in the February Open Meeting.

The Order takes action to clear the lower 280 megahertz of the C-Band (3.7-3.98 GHz) in the contiguous United States (“CONUS”) and make it available for flexible use via a public auction to be held in December 2020. An additional 20 megahertz (3.98-4.0 GHz) will be cleared to serve as a guard band. Existing satellite operations will be repacked into the upper 200 megahertz of the band (4.0-4.2 GHz). The Order establishes December 5, 2025, as the final deadline for satellite clearing, but provides monetary incentives to satellite operators to clear portions of the band on an accelerated timeline. The Order also requires incumbent fixed service licensees in CONUS to relocate their point-to-point links to other bands by December 5, 2023. In addition, the Order adopts service and technical rules for flexible-use licensees in the 3.7-3.98 GHz portion of the band.

The adopted Order contains several significant changes and additions from the previously circulated draft item. Notably, the Order adjusts the timelines on the transition schedule, bumping the Accelerated Relocation Deadlines from September 30, 2021, and September 30, 2023, to December 5, 2021, and December 5, 2023, respectively. The Order also moves the Relocation Deadline from September 30, 2025, to December 5, 2025. On relocation payments, the Commission adopts a new sliding scale of decreasing accelerated relocation payments for electing space station operators that miss an accelerated deadline, but still complete relocation within 6 months of such deadline, and will permit a public notice and comment period on Certifications of Accelerated Relocation and on each filed Transition Plan. The Order also adds WISPA to the committee to select a Relocation Payment Clearinghouse. In addition, the Order encourages interested relevant parties to form a multi-stakeholder group to establish a technical framework and best practices in the C-Band, with OET to act as a liaison, rather than to directly convene the group.

The rules and requirements adopted in the Order will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, while sections of the FCC’s rules that contain new or modified information collection requirements will not be effective until approved by OMB. The Order of Proposed Modification will be effective as of the date of publication in the Federal Register, and the modifications to the licenses and authorizations of incumbent services in the C-Band, as adopted therein, will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. If an affected party seeks to protest the proposed modification to its license or permit, such modification shall not be made final as to such licensee or permittee unless and until the FCC orders otherwise. These parties have 30 days from publication in the Federal Register to file a protest pursuant to Section 316.

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