At its January meeting, the ARRL Board of Directors instructed the League’s FCC counsel to prepare a strong response to protect amateur access to spectrum in the 3 GHz range. In its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in WT Docket 19-348, the FCC proposed to relocate all non-federal operations, including amateur uses, to spectrum outside the 3.3 – 3.55 GHz band. The Commission anticipates auctioning this spectrum to expand commercial use of 5G cellular and wireless broadband services, if agreement can be reached on relocation of — or sharing with — the federal incumbents that operate in the same band. Publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register on January 22 established deadlines of February 21 for comments and March 23 for reply comments.
The FCC has requested comment on the uses radio amateurs make of the spectrum and appropriate relocation options. Complicating matters is the fact that radio amateurs must consider the possibility that the immediately adjacent 3.1 – 3.3 GHz band is included in the spectrum that Congress has identified for similar study. FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, in a December statement, referenced the fact that the lower band may also be considered for non-federal reallocation, potentially limiting relocation possibilities.
Amateurs make substantial use of the 3.3 – 3.5 GHz band that would be hard to replicate elsewhere, and they have filed more than 150 comments before the designated comment period even began. Among users looking at options are those who use this spectrum for Earth-Moon-Earth (moonbounce) communication, mesh networks, experiments with communication over long distances, radiosport, and amateur television. A portion of the band also is designated for use by amateur satellites in ITU Regions 2 and 3 (the Americas and Asia/Pacific).
A report is due by March 23 from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) evaluating the feasibility of having federal users share all or part of the 3.1 – 3.55 GHz band with commercial wireless services. This report is required by the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless (MOBILE NOW) Act. The results of the NTIA report will impact how much spectrum ultimately may be re-allocated for auction to wireless providers.
ARRL urges amateurs who comment to inform the FCC about the uses they make of the 3 GHz spectrum. Short comments and longer statements may be filed electronically. Visit the FCC “How to Comment on FCC Proceedings” page for more information. Commenters should reference WT Docket 19-348.