The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to open additional mmWave spectrum resources for mobile use, but questions about the timing of an auction to licence those airwaves overshadowed the decision.
The new Spectrum Frontiers order approved Thursday (16 November) makes an additional 1.7GHz of mmWave spectrum in the 24GHz and 47GHz bands available for flexible terrestrial wireless use. The measure also maintains previously adopted spectrum allocations for mobile use in the 28GHz, 37GHz and 39GHz bands, and unlicensed use between 64GHz and 71GHz.
Additionally, the order refuses to cap the amount of spectrum in the 24GHz and 47GHz bands bidders can acquire at auction and proposes to scrap an existing cap on how much spectrum in the 28GHz, 37GHz and 39GHz bands can be won at auction.
Notably, the FCC’s action did not include any mention of when an auction of those airwaves might be held.
Both commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and AT&T’s public policy team have pressed for a mmWave auction in 2018. In a blog post, Stacey Black, AT&T’s assistant VP of federal regulatory, noted holding an auction in 2018 would align with commercial availability of chipsets and equipment, as well as FCC service rules and 5G standards.
But commissioner Michael O’Rielly indicated the FCC remains bound by a procedural obstacle: the lack of a financial institution willing to hold bidders’ upfront payments in interest-bearing accounts.
I agree on need & timeliness of 5G spectrum auctions — but @FCC has a statutory hiccup. That’s why I’m supporting @RepGuthrie @DorisMatsui & @SenJohnthune targeted bills to fix problem. https://t.co/R4ey0s1VtO
— Mike O’Rielly (@mikeofcc) November 15, 2017
FCC chairman Ajit Pai previously noted the commission cannot move forward with any large spectrum auctions, including dispersal of the mmWave spectrum opened for 5G, until this problem is solved.
However, the problem does not hinder 5G deployments at those frequencies. Verizon picked up 28GHz licences through a deal with XO Communications and will gain access to hundreds more licences at 28GHz and 39GHz from a $3.1 billion deal with Straight Path.
AT&T is also set to pick up a slew of 24GHz and 39GHz licences through its acquisition of FiberTower, and T-Mobile US already owns 200MHz of 28GHz and 39GHz spectrum.