UScellular cites progress in C-band talks with FAA

UScellular told the FCC last week that its joint coordination efforts with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) show that its C-band deployment can proceed in a timely manner.

Until relatively recently, Verizon and AT&T were the main targets of FAA efforts to curtail C-band transmissions near airports.

But reports surfaced in October that Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen was seeking mandates that would apply to 19 other smaller telecom companies and spectrum holders. The FAA said it did not have the authority to require the other C-band spectrum holders to adopt the same precautions as Verizon and AT&T but wanted the FCC to step in.

In a December 1 filing, UScellular acknowledged that it’s been engaging in pre-coordination discussions with the FAA ahead of its planned C-band deployment. The regional carrier spelled out these efforts:

  • Both UScellular and the FAA analyzed the FAA’s list of 188 airports that will require C-band licensee coordination and determined that only a small number of airports fall within UScellular’s footprint.
  • UScellular submitted latitude, longitude and height of antenna above ground level for all sites that fall within the FAA’s mitigation airports.
  • Based on UScellular’s deployment timeframe and the location of its sites in the coordination zones, the FAA has confirmed that “UScellular’s sites near the 188 C-Band mitigation airports would be approved for full power operation in a post-retrofit aircraft environment.”

The update follows a previous filing by UScellular in which it urged the FCC to reject calls for modifications to its C-band rules. UScellular used its December 1 filing with the FCC to reiterate that request.  

“This is even more important today, now that the FAA has confirmed UScellular’s sites would be approved for full power operation in a post-retrofit aircraft environment,” the carrier said.

UScellular said it will continue to work with the FAA weekly to ensure its deployment proceeds as planned and tackle any challenges that arise. It also promised to update Congress, the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on its progress.

Unlike AT&T and Verizon, UScellular does not get access to its C-band spectrum until the end of 2023, but it wants to start rolling it how now and throughout 2023 so that the radios are on towers and ready to “light up,” so to speak, when the spectrum is cleared for use.