FCC Releases 12 GHz Item

On May 19, 2023, the FCC released the Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order on the 12.2-12.7 GHz (12.2 GHz band) and the 12.7-13.25 GHz (12.7 GHz band) bands.  The item was adopted at the May Open Meeting.

12.2 GHz Band

  1.  GHz Report and Order

In the 12.2 GHz Report and Order, the FCC finds that it is not in the public interest to add a mobile allocation to permit two-way terrestrial 5G service in the 12.2 GHz band.  The FCC concluded that the record demonstrated that ubiquitous 5G terrestrial mobile service cannot coexist with Direct Broadcast Satellite (“DBS”) and non-geostationary orbit systems (“NGSO FSS”) operations in the band without a significant increase in the risk of harmful interference to both services.   The FCC did address the MVDDS construction notices, as explained below.

A. DBS Services

With regard to DBS services, the FCC found that the studies in the record all demonstrated that some amount of interference to DBS services was likely, even when using substantially lower power levels than those typically permitted in other bands for 5G service.  The FCC also found that the proposals in the record would increase the burdens on DBS operators because the proposals would require increased coordination efforts, particularly when deploying new subscriber antennas, and the proposals did not account for the lower elevation angles of DBS earth stations, further increasing the likelihood of interference.

B. NGSO FSS Services

With regard to NGSO FSS services, the FCC found that all the studies in the record agree that, on some level, NGSO FSS user terminals will suffer harmful interference if they are operating in close proximity to 5G transmissions in the 12.2 GHz band.  The FCC concluded that the proponents of adding 5G service in the band were relying too heavily on an assumption of geographic separation, which could not be guaranteed, particularly as satellite operators are making increasingly greater use of the band to provide internet service to remote locations.  The FCC also noted there was substantial disagreement with regard to key technical and operational requirements for both NGSO FSS and 5G services in the band, and that additional information on NGSO FSS deployments would be necessary before any changes were made.  Even so, the FCC found the disagreements did not affect their determination that harmful interference was likely.

C. MVDDS Construction Notifications

The Commission did address the MVDDS construction notifications.  It directed the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau to conclude its review of the notifications and to accept them, with the caveat that the Commission reserves the right to adopt additional buildout requirements if appropriate based on the rules adopted in response to the FNPRM.  The Commission also directed the Bureau to reconsider denials of the 2016 requests to extend buildout deadlines for 22 licenses and to extend the buildout deadline for those licenses 18 months from the date of the Order.

      2. GHz Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

 In the FNPRM, the FCC seeks comments on several proposals to expand terrestrial use of the band.  Specifically, the FCC seeks comment on:

  • The potential to expand licensed terrestrial fixed use of the 12.2 GHz band, including permitting one-way, point-to-point or point-to-multipoint fixed links at a higher power and the possibility of allowing two-way point-to-multipoint links.
  • Permitting unlicensed use of the 12.2 GHz band, including whether it should be implemented pursuant to part 15 and utilizing 6 GHz as a model.
  • Technological advancements that may accommodate terrestrial capabilities in the 12.2 GHz band, including utilizing Automated Frequency Coordination to increase deployments, and other ways to protect incumbent users in the band.
  • How to use the band to promote digital equity and inclusion.

 12.7 GHz Band

  1. 7 GHz Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

In the 12.7 GHz NPRM, the FCC seeks comment on expanding use of the band.  Specifically, the FCC proposes and seeks comment on:

  • Expanded use of the 12.7 GHz Band, by:
    • Repurposing some or all of the 12.7 GHz band for mobile broadband and utilizing the FCC’s emerging technologies framework to relocate or repack incumbent terrestrial licenses.  The FCC proposes to repack broadcast incumbents into a 25 MHz portion of the band, relocate fixed services licensees, and accommodate FSS satellite operators as incumbents in the 12.7 GHz band.
    • Making the 12.7 GHz freeze essentially permanent, since the incumbent services would be relocated to different portions of the band.
  • Alternative approaches to sharing the band, including imposing a sharing methodology of the sort used for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, 6 GHz, White Space Devices, or another system that would prevent interference.
  • The proposed licensing scheme for the band, proposing that 12.7 GHz band be:
    • Licensed under the flexible use, part 27 rules
    • Have a technologically neutral policy for the band,
    • Licensed in 100 megahertz blocks, or whether some commenters’ 50 megahertz blocks suggestion is more beneficial
    • Licensed on a Partial Economic Ara (“PEA”) basis
    • Licensed for a 10-year license term
    • Subject to reasonable benchmarks, including
      • Requiring licensees offering mobile or point-to-multipoint services to provide reliable signal coverage and offer service to at least 30% to 45% of the population in each of their license areas within five years of the license issue date (interim performance benchmark), and to at least 60% to 80% of the population in each of their license areas within ten years from the license issue date (final performance benchmark).
      • Requiring alternate Internet of Things (“IoT”) performance benchmarks, pursuant to which licensees providing IoT-type services would have flexibility to demonstrate that they offer geographic area coverage of at least 25% to 35% of the license area at the interim (five[1]year) performance benchmark, and geographic area coverage of at least 50% to 65% of the license area at the final (ten-year) performance benchmark.
    • Should utilize the standard open eligibility application standard, mutually exclusive application process, and spectrum screen
  • The appropriate technical rules for the band, including power limits, out-of-band emission limits, field strength limits and market boundaries, antenna height limits, international coordination concerns, application of the general part 27 requirements, and how to protect federal operations in band and in adjacent bands
  • Promoting digital equity and inclusion

       2. 7 GHz Order

 In the 12.7 GHz Order, the FCC is requiring incumbents to provide additional information about their operations in the band.  Fixed and mobile Broadcast Auxiliary Service (“BAS”) licensees are required to certify the accuracy of the information in each ULS license, including whether the facilities are operating as authorized.  If a licensee is unable to make such a certification for a given license, it must cancel or modify the license in accordance with the Commission’s rules.  Applicants that filed separate applications for new or modifies 12.7 GHz BAS licenses on or after January 1, 2021 are exempted from the Order.  The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Media Bureau are directed to issue a Public Notice describing the instruction for BAS licensees to file certifications regarding existing information in ULS and establishing a window to file such certifications.  The Buraus are also directed to consider whether additional information should be collected from all or some 12.7 GHz band incumbents to determine whether they need to initiate an information collection to comply with the proposals in the NPRM and all other requirements.

Though the FCC does not mandate it, it encourages all entities who may be affected by the proposals in the NPRM to ensure that their information is up to date with the Commission as the Commission will be relying on the existing information in its systems to determine how to best implement its proposals.

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

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

Please Contact Us if you have any questions.