The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked industry players for their input as it works under congressional orders to open additional spectrum between 3.7GHz and 4.2GHz bands (C-Band) for wireless use.

Specifically, the US regulator queried whether sharing in the band is feasible and how it might best be accomplished; how sharing might impact current C-Band users; and any further considerations it should be aware of. Initial comments are due by 31 May.

The answers will be compiled as part of a report the FCC must turn over to congressional committees and the Secretary of Commerce by 23 September 2019, assessing the feasibility of allowing commercial wireless services to use or share C-Band spectrum. Those airwaves are currently used for satellite operations.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly called the report process an “important step forward” that will “complement and not delay the Commission’s ongoing work” on opening up the C-Band.

Room for debate
Incumbent satellite operators Inmarsat and SES both backed a proposal submitted to the FCC in October 2017 which would allocate 100MHz of contiguous C-Band spectrum for wireless operators while maintaining existing operations. The pair indicated they could feasibly free up that spectrum within 18 to 36 months.

However, wireless interests – including T-Mobile US and Nokia – weren’t convinced. Nokia argued in March rather than freeing up 100MHz total, the goal should be to open up 100MHz of nationwide spectrum for each operator. The company said such bandwidth could help the band become a “major driver” of 5G deployments.

A shift to make the C-Band available to stateside operators would bring the US into closer alignment with other countries across the globe, including the EU and South Korea, which have already earmarked the band for next generation deployments.