FCC Requests Comment on 4.9 GHz Spectrum (6/14/12)
The FCC proposed rules and asked for comment on a number of issues involved in improving spectrum efficiency and encouraging greater use of the 4.9 GHz band for public-safety broadband communications.
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in a statement that fewer than 3 percent of all 87,000 eligible public-safety jurisdictions actually hold licenses in the 4.9 GHz band. The FCC action is aimed at increasing use of the spectrum.
The 4.9 GHz broadband spectrum is a contiguous block of 50 megahertz of spectrum that is designated for both fixed and mobile and dedicated for public safety. Using 4.9 GHz spectrum, public-safety users can set up temporary mesh networks that support data, voice and video communications at scenes of emergencies; monitor sensitive locations remotely with point-to-point video links; and set up citywide Wi-Fi networks to give first responders dedicated broadband access. The spectrum can complement the national public-safety broadband network for backhaul, facilitate safer operation of the nation’s critical infrastructure and utilities, and provide wireless broadband connectivity in remote or sparsely populated locations, the commission said.
“We are pleased that the commission is initiating a new proceeding to address how public-safety use of the 4.9 GHz band can be made more productive and efficient,” said Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International President Gregg Riddle.
The fifth further notice of proposed rulemaking seeks comment on the following:
• Whether to establish formal coordination requirements in the 4.9 GHz band, whether the 700 MHz regional planning committees (RPCs) could administer a database registration process, and options for a registration database to be used for coordination purposes;
• Whether expanding eligibility to critical infrastructure industries (CII) and commercial users would promote more effective and efficient use of the band;
• Whether eligibility for commercial users should be on a secondary basis subject to a shutdown feature to allow public-safety priority access;
• Whether the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is or should be eligible for a 4.9 GHz band license, particularly for backhaul links in support of the 700 MHz network; technical proposals to increase spectrum efficiency, usage and throughput in the band. Specifically, the commission invited input on issues such as the channel plan, power and antenna gain limits, aeronautical mobile operations and interoperability standards.
The FCC tentatively concluded that allowing non-public safety entities to obtain licenses directly rather than having to enter into sharing arrangements with public-safety licensees would remove a barrier to entry and stimulate more investment in the band.
“The rulemaking is a big opportunity for utilities and CII and could provide access to 50 megahertz of contiguous spectrum for high-capacity short range communications to support utility applications like substation monitoring or backhaul of advanced metering data in a neighborhood area network,” said Brett Kilbourne, vice president government and industry affairs and deputy general counsel with the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC).
The commission also addressed how the 4.9 GHz band can complement the nationwide 700 MHz public-safety broadband network to be deployed by FirstNet under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 and asked for comment on whether the 4.9 GHz band could support the 700 MHz network through the offloading of fixed video and/or backhaul applications.
The fourth report and order portion of the FCC’s action corrects minor errors, including reinstating an exemption of 4.9 GHz band applications from certified frequency coordination requirements, correcting and clarifying the 4.9 GHz band plan, and making three cleanup amendments.
Comments on the rulemaking notice are due 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register, and reply comments are due 90 days after publication.
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