Coalition backed by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile praises FCC for midband spectrum NOI

A broad-based group of licensed and unlicensed equipment manufacturers and wireless service providers sang the praises of the FCC for starting an initiative to enable wireless broadband in midband spectrum.

The FCC on Thursday voted to adopt a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) exploring opportunities in spectrum bands between 3.7 GHz and 24 GHz, kicking off a comment period on three specific midrange spectrum bands: 3.7-4.2 GHz, 5.925-6.425 GHz and 6.425-7.125 GHz.

The coalition is advocating in particular for new access opportunities in the 3.7-4.2 GHz and 6 GHz bands. Founding members of the coalition include AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Google and Alphabet Access, Ericsson, Nokia, CTIA, Samsung, Wi-Fi Alliance, Intel, Cisco, Comsearch, Broadcom, HPE and Information Technology Industry Council (ITI).

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly mentioned a broad-based coalition during a keynote he delivered Tuesday at Qualcomm facilities in San Diego where the CBRS Alliance was meeting, noting that an ad-hoc coalition of equipment makers, wireless providers and unlicensed users had been discussing ideas on how to open the 3.7-4.2 GHz band for licensed mobile services while protecting or accommodating incumbents.

The coalition also pointed out in a press release that the FCC’s efforts also align with Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune’s (R-S.D.) statement in a recent letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that called for the FCC to begin a rulemaking proceeding focused on opening midband spectrum for both licensed and unlicensed networks.

Midband spectrum frequencies offer a unique balance of coverage and capacity, and countries around the world are targeting these midband frequencies for licensed and unlicensed applications, according to the coalition.

Qualcomm isn’t listed among the members of the coalition in the press release, but the company is pleased to see the FCC show strong bipartisan leadership on 5G. “More spectrum of all types is essential to be able to deliver the tremendous innovations 5G will bring to almost every industry, touching on nearly every facet of American life,” said Dean Brenner, SVP of spectrum strategy and technology policy at Qualcomm, in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our close collaboration with the FCC on spectrum and to working with our many partners in the industry to enable widespread commercial launches of 5G, beginning in 2019.”

Michael Calabrese, director of Wireless Future Program at New America's Open Technology Institute, released a statement saying underutilized satellite bands above 3.7 GHz have “enormous potential” to narrow the rural and small town digital divide. The Broadband Access Coalition, formed in June, "looks forward to helping the FCC craft rules that allow for the immediate sharing of the 3.7 GHz band for high-capacity fixed wireless service where trenching fiber is too expensive, and to do so in a way that neither interferes with satellite incumbents nor forecloses the long-term potential for mobile use of all or part of the band.”

RELATED: Mimosa, Cincinnati Bell among those pushing for new rules for 3.7-4.2 GHz band

The Broadband Access Coalition was formed by more than 20 service providers, equipment vendors, trade associations and nonprofit public advocacy groups, with the purpose of petitioning the FCC to authorize a new, licensed, point-to-multipoint (P2MP) fixed wireless service in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band. Co-founders of this coalition include Mimosa Networks, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) and the Open Technology Institute at New America; a full list can be found here (PDF).

While satellite operators say the 3.7-4.2 GHz band is of vital importance to the satellite industry, petitioners say the band is under-used by satellites.

RELATED: Google studying 3.7-4.2 GHz band for variety of applications

Interest is very high in “cleaning up” the FCC’s database that is supposed to show where ground-based fixed satellite service (FSS) equipment is located and approved to operate. Google examined the database and found that nearly 30% of the sites didn’t exist; however, that doesn’t include sites that may no longer be operational because the imaging technology doesn’t provide that level of detail.

The FCC will be taking comments on the midband spectrum NOI until Oct. 2, 2017, with reply comments due Nov. 1.