FCC Takes Action to Expand Access and Investment in the 4.9 GHz Band

By: Noah Vehafric

The FCC published a proposed order today that would promote development of the underused 4.9 GHz band by allowing individual State governments to license portions of the band to third party users for commercial, infrastructure, or other purposes 

This marks a change from a 2002 decision by the FCC which announced that the 4.9 GHz band would be allocated exclusively for the purpose of public safety. 

This new order states that the 4.9 GHz band has been underutilized for the past 18 years with only 3.5% of potential licensees operating within it despite FCC efforts to promote its development by working with public safety entities and associations nationwide.   

Writing in his Medium blog, Chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai, says the barrier to wireless deployment in this band is “the unusual licensing framework. Public safety licensees are permitted to use their spectrum only for public safety purposes, with no exclusivity, and share the band by ad-hoc coordination to avoid interference”. 

This order would give opportunities for development by commercial users, electric utilities, and others while protecting existing public safety operators in this band. 

This order is unique in that it empowers individual States to have the authority “to make decisions on how best to maximize the value and use of their spectrum based on market forces.” 

Under this framework, States can continue to use the spectrum for their own public safety operations, or they can lease the spectrum to a commercial service provider for deployment of mobile or fixed wireless Internet service, private land mobile radio service or critical infrastructure connectivity; or they can pursue a combination of any of these scenarios. 

The Order will be voted on by the FCC at their next meeting on September 30th