Pai Announces Public Auction for C-Band Spectrum

WASHINGTON—The FCC is preparing to launch a public spectrum auction for C-band spectrum with the goal of developing 5G wireless connectivity in the mid-band spectrum, according to an announcement today from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Pai made his plans clear in a letter to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, on Monday, Nov. 18.

Pai had previously announced that he would determine how the FCC would go about making the C-band spectrum, which resides in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, by this fall. He also outlined four principles that he believed needed to be achieved through the FCC’s rulemaking on the matter: 1) that a significant amount of C-band spectrum be made available for 5G; 2) the spectrum must be made available quickly; 3) revenue must be generated for the federal government; and 4) the services currently using C-band must be protected so as to still serve the Americans who rely on them.

“After much deliberation and a thorough review of the extensive record, I have concluded that the best way to advance these principles is through an auction of 280 megahertz of the C-band conducted by the Federal Communications Commission’s excellent staff,” Pai wrote. “With a quarter-century track record of transparent and successful auctions, I am confident that they will conduct a public auction that will afford all parties a fair opportunity to compete for this 5G spectrum, while preserving the availability of the upper 200 megahertz of this band for the continued delivery of programming.”

The C-Band Alliance had its own proposal of leading a private-run auction, but Congress and many others supported a public auction run by the FCC.

Satellite operator Eutelsat said it welcomed the decision, calling it an “important first step in expediting rapidly and equitably the clearance of C-band frequencies for mobile 5G services.”

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association issued their own statement: “The chairman’s statement is good news for the fixed wireless industry, and WISPA believes it leaves open the possibility that with a few technical rule amendments/changes, the FCC could permit P2MP by an automated frequency coordinator to protect delivery of programming and quickly bridge digital divides in rural areas.”

No details on the public auction have been made available as of yet.