FCC Sets Auction Procedures for 3.5 GHz Band
As we reported late last year the FCC has completed a number of steps to open the 3550-3700 MHz (“3.5 GHz”) band to use as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (“CBRS”).
The rules for this 150 MHz of bandwidth incorporate some unique features intended to optimize the use of the spectrum by carriers, enterprise users, and consumers. Devices for this band will incorporate technology that will require them to be managed by a Spectrum Access System (“SAS”) so that operating frequencies and parameters of all CBRS devices can be managed to avoid conflicts with other nearby devices. In addition, users wanting to have priority over unlicensed devices for access to a channel are invited to purchase a Priority Access License (“PAL”) at FCC auction. Up to seven PALs (10 MHz of bandwidth each) will be available in each county in the U.S.
The FCC has just adopted the specific rules and procedures that will govern the auction of PALs in FCC Auction No. 105. The following are key aspects of the auction:
- Short-form applications to participate in the auction may be filed between March 26 and April 9, 2020.
- Upfront payments (i.e., refundable deposits) to participate will be due by May 21, 2020.
- Online bidding will begin June 25, 2020 and will continue in successive bidding rounds until no new bids are placed on any of the 22,631 PALs that will be available for purchase.
Bidders that qualify as a “small business” (i.e., average annual gross revenues less than $55 million) will be entitled to a 15% discount on their winning bids, and entities qualifying as a “very small business” (i.e., average annual gross revenues less than $20 million) will be entitled to a 25% discount on their winning bids. Entities that provide commercial communications services in predominantly rural areas and have less than 250,000 subscribers may request a bidding credit of 15%.
If you are interested in obtaining one or more PALs or have questions about the 3.5 GHz band generally, please contact Jeff Sheldon.
* There is a possibility that the FCC will need to delay Auction 105 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is also possible the auction will proceed as planned because FCC staff is largely working remotely and the auction is conducted online.