FCC to Open Low-Band Spectrum, Paving Way for 5G

On Monday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it is on track to provide more broadband spectrum. The post-incentive auction transition successfully reached the July 13 39-month deadline “established for television stations to move off their pre-auction channel assignments.” All of the low-band airwaves sold in the auction are now available for wireless mobile broadband services.

The “incentive auction” was created in March 2016 and the bidding ended in March 2017 in order to repurpose spectrum for new uses; it repurposed television broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband use. Specifically, the newly licensed 600 MHz band spectrum is being used to provide wireless service, such as 5G, in the United States.

“Today represents a milestone in the Commission’s effort to repurpose spectrum to meet the demands of wireless consumers,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “I want to thank the broadcast and wireless industries, the tower crews, the equipment manufacturers, and the radio frequency engineers who support them for the hard work they have done over the past 39 months to make the benefits of the broadcast incentive auction a reality. I also want to thank the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, along with a team of professionals from across the Commission, who worked in a proactive, flexible, and collaborative way with industry throughout the transition. I appreciate their deep commitment to public service and their dedication to making this challenging project a success for American consumers.”

The Task Force, Media Bureau, and Office of Managing Director will continue to reimburse stations for their relocation, which will close the $2.75 billion Broadcaster Relocation Fund.

The FCC noted that “with the end of the transition, the broader deployment of this spectrum will further help close the digital divide in rural America, ease congestion on wireless networks, promote the widespread availability of 5G, and spur job creation and economic growth.” In order to clear the new 600 MHz band, 987 TV stations were assigned to new channels.

The FCC created a 10-phase transition plan to solve interface problems. It took limited resources and other constraints into account in order to meet the deadline, according to the FCC’s release. The Commission reported that this has worked successfully, citing that more than 99% of the 987 reassigned stations have successfully transitioned off of their pre-auction channels. The remaining channels were granted an extension due to unforeseen circumstances and the transition will be complete before the end of the summer.