FCC Highlights Reallocating the 5.9 GHz Band at November Open Meeting

Headlining the FCC’s next open meeting, scheduled for November 18 is an item to adopt proposed rules to reallocate the 5.9 GHz band. The FCC would repurpose the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed use, while retaining the upper portion of the band for Intelligent Transportation Systems (“ITS”) operations and transitioning to Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (“C-V2X”) technology. The Commission plans to seek additional comment on proposed technical rules for outdoor unlicensed use and on implementation timelines for transitioning to C-V2X. The November meeting will also consider two satellite items. The FCC plans to streamline its satellite licensing rules by creating an optional unified license system for satellite and earth station operations, and will propose a new allocation in the 17 GHz band for Fixed Satellite Service (“FSS”) space-to-Earth downlinks. Additionally, the Commission will propose expanding the contribution base for the Telecommunications Relay Services (“TRS”) Fund.

FCC regulatory will likely slow in the aftermath of the election and with an upcoming change in Administration. However, the Commission tees up two new rulemaking proceedings with the November agenda, signaling that the FCC may still be moving forward with policy initiatives going into a transition period. You will find more details on the most significant November meeting items after the break:

Reallocating the 5.9 GHz Band: The draft First Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Order of Proposed Modification (“FNPRM”) would adopt rules to repurpose the 5.9 GHz (5.850-5.925 GHz) band. The Order would repurpose 45 megahertz of spectrum in the 5.850-5.895 GHz portion of the band for unlicensed use and allow for immediate unlicensed indoor operations. It would designate the upper 30 megahertz of spectrum in the 5.895-5.925 GHz band for ITS service, and require ITS operations to cease operations in the lower portion of the band within one year of the Order’s effective date. The Commission would also require the transition of the ITS radio service standard from Dedicated Short-Range Communications (“DSRC”) technology to C-V2X technology. The FNPRM would propose technical rules for outdoor unlicensed operations in the 5.850-5.895 GHz band once ITS operations have transitioned out of this portion of the band, and would seek comment on the implementation timelines and technical parameters for transitioning all ITS operations in the revised ITS band to C-V2X-based technology.

Further Streamlining of Satellite Regulations: The draft Report and Order would streamline the Commission’s satellite licensing rules by creating an optional framework for authorizing space stations and blanket-licensed earth stations through a unified license. The unified license would be available to systems operating above 10 GHz, and would eliminate redundancies in the separate licensing process and accelerate new earth station deployment. The FCC would streamline application requirements by allowing applicants to certify compliance with satellite licenses and would eliminate certain reporting requirements. The Order would additionally align buildout periods for qualifying earth stations and the satellites with which they communicate to allow for increased coordination.

Facilitating Next Generation Satellite Services in the 17 GHz Band: The draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) would propose to allow use of the 17.3-17.7 GHz band by geostationary satellite orbit (“GSO”) space stations in the FSS in the space-to Earth (downlink) direction on a co-primary basis with incumbent services, aimed at increasing use and efficiency of the 17 GHz band. The Commission would propose to permit limited GSO FSS use of the 17.7-17.8 GHz band on a non-protected basis for fixed service operations. The NPRM would additionally propose technical parameters for an extended Ka-band, and would propose to apply certain uplink power limits to GSO FSS uplink transmissions in the extended Ka-band to protect GSO FSS space stations from interference.

Expanding the Contribution Base for Accessible Communications Services: The draft NPRM would propose to amend the Commission’s rules to update the funding mechanism for the TRS Fund, and expand the contribution base for Internet-based TRS to Video Relay Service (“VRS”) and Internet Protocol (“IP”) Relay Service. The FCC would propose to expand the contribution base for these services to include intrastate revenues from telecommunications carriers and VoIP service providers. The NPRM would propose to calculate these TRS Fund payments to support VRS and IP Relay by applying a single contribution factor for all three Internet-based services to a contributor’s total end-user revenues, combining both intrastate and interstate revenues. The Commission would seek comment on its implementation proposals and on any alternative approaches for the contribution calculation.