FCC Expands Flexible C-Band Use For 5G

The FCC today adopted new rules to auction and make available quickly and efficiently 280 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for flexible use, including 5G. “Making this critical spectrum available represents another important step to closing the digital divide, especially in rural areas, and secures U.S. leadership in 5G,” the commission said.

Today’s action makes a wide swath of mid-band spectrum available for 5G through a public auction. As a result, the FCC said, “this valuable spectrum will be available quickly, while generating substantial revenue for the United States Treasury. At the same time, the item ensures the continuous and uninterrupted delivery of video programming services and other content to the American people that is currently delivered by satellites using the C-band.”

Within the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, the FCC has is allocating the 3.7-4.0 GHz portion of the band for mobile use and 280 MHz (3.7-3.98 GHz band) will be auctioned by the FCC for wireless services in the contiguous United States. Another 20 MHz (3.98-4.0 GHz) will serve as a guard band while existing satellite operations will be repacked into the upper 200 megahertz of the band (4.0-4.2 GHz).

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This 280 MHz of spectrum will be transitioned to flexible use no later than Dec. 5, 2025. Under the Report and Order, eligible space station operators will be able to receive accelerated relocation payments totaling $9.7 billion if they commit to, and succeed in, clearing the spectrum early.

To be eligible for Phase I payments, operators must clear 120 MHz of spectrum (3.7-3.82 GHz) in 46 Partial Economic Areas by December 5, 2021. To be eligible for Phase II payments, they must clear the remaining 180 MHz of spectrum (3.82-4.0 GHz) by Dec. 5, 2023; new flexible-use licensees will be responsible for these payments as well as reasonable relocation costs.

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The FCC is creating a Relocation Payment Clearinghouse to manage this process as well as oversee relocation funds available to incumbents. The FCC is also creating a Relocation Coordinator to migrate incumbent earth stations that receive content from space station operators to ensure uninterrupted service during and following the transition.


The FCC also adopted service and technical rules for the flexible-use licensees and rules that require incumbent fixed microwave services licensees to relocate their point-to-point links to other bands by Dec. 5, 2023.

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