FCC Releases 4.9 GHz R&O/NPRM

On January 18, 2023, the FCC released a Seventh Report and Order and Ninth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“R&O” and “NPRM” respectively) on the 4.9 GHz (4940-4990 MHz) band.  The R&O retains the band’s public safety allocation but allows for secondary, non-public safety use of the band.  The NPRM seeks comment on the details of implementing a new leasing model while maintaining robust public safety operations.

Report and Order

The R&O adopts rules that will permit non-public safety entities to utilize the 4.9 GHz band provided they have approval from a Band Manager and they fully protect and, where necessary, be subject to preemption by, public safety operations in the band.  Non-public safety use of the band will be on an un-licensed, secondary basis only.  This ensures public safety entities are afforded priority access and preemption rights for their operations.

Access to the band for both public safety licensees and non-public safety entities will be facilitated by a Band Manager, which will be responsible for: (1) frequency coordination for public safety applicants seeking to license new or modify existing facilities in the band; (2) technological incentivization by recommending a spectrum plan for the band that incorporates the latest commercially available technologies into the band in a manner that supports and protects public safety operations; and (3) facilitating non-public safety access to the band on a secondary basis to, and subject to preemption by, public safety licensees.  The exact method the Band Manager will use to facilitate non-public safety access is yet to be determined and the FCC seeks comment on several proposals for this in the NPRM.

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

The NPRM seeks comment on several issues related to the implementation of the Band Manager model, including:

  • The rights and responsibilities of the Band Manger with regard to coordination and management of public safety operations in the band, including the criteria for harmful interference, whether the Band Manager should be responsible for mediating disputes for existing or proposed operations, and exploring the possibility to lease spectrum to operators of broadband networks used by public safety in other frequency bands
  • The rights and responsibilities of the Band Manager with regard to non-public safety operations, including how to enable Band Manager-coordinated non-public safety leasing, as well as general considerations for creating an effective leased access model for the band, in particular, the need to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of potential lessees.  The NPRM seeks comment on two proposals, outlined below, the method of implementation for each, required consents, geographic-area licenses, distribution of revenues and payments, and other concerns.
    • Leasing Model 1: the Band Manager would become a lessee of the spectrum by directly leasing spectrum from the public safety entity.  The Band Manager would then sublease the spectrum to non-public safety entities.
    • Leasing Model 2: the Band Manager would merely coordinate and approve leases between public safety entities and non-public safety entities.
  • How to ensure preemption rights for public safety licensees over non-public safety users in emergency circumstances.
  • The selection of the Band Manager.
  • Other considerations, such as FCC oversight, future licensing of the band, and aeronautical mobile use of the band.

Comments will be due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Reply comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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