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FCC to Auction Federal Spectrum by September 2014

WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission intends to auction off spectrum now occupied by federal users to wireless providers “as early as” September of 2014, according to a communiqué between federal agencies. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski sent a notification this week to Lawrence Strickling, Assistant Secretary for the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, advising him that the commission planned to auction licenses at 1,695 to 1,710 MHz, and 1,755 to 1,780 MHz, “as early as September 2014.” The Spectrum Act requires that the FCC give the NTIA 18 month notification of spectrum auctions. It also requires that the commission provide the NTIA with estimated relocation and spectrum-sharing costs and timelines at least six months before such auctions commence.

NTIA recently carved out 1,695 to 1,710 MHz for transition from federal to non-federal use. Under the Spectrum Act, the FCC has to reallocate it by February 2015. The tentative September 2014 auction date provides the commission with adequate time to hit this deadline, Genachowski’s missive said.

The 25 MHz between 1,755 and 1,780 MHz is being considered for shared use by federal and commercial uses. The wireless industry has advocated for pairing it with 2,155-2,180, which is also under the February 2015 shot clock. Genachowski said it was included in the September 2014 auction date “to preserve the possibility of auctioning it with the 2,155-2,180 MHz band.”

The NTIA’s Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee is preparing recommendations on how the sharing architecture should be structured. Those must be completed and accepted before the auction commences, along with a technical review and a rulemaking process by the FCC. Genachowski said he has directed the FCC staff to draft the rulemakings “as soon as possible.”