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Report and Order Released on MDS/IFTS Rule Changes

The FCC has released the Report and Order (FCC 04-135) making major changes to the Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS), the Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS) and the Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS). RF Report for June 15, 2004 carried a summary of the changes based on the FCC News Release issued after the Commission meeting adopting the Report and Order.

Although the three page release said that "today's Order renames the MDS service the Broadband Radio Service (BRS), while maintaining the ITFS label for ITFS licenses and operations," the 219 page Report and Order states that in it the FCC, renames "the ITFS service as the "Educational Broadband Service" (EBS), which more accurately describes the kinds of the services that we anticipate will develop in the band."

The Report and Order contains a much more detailed description of the band plan, including a new chart and this description of the changes:

"Specifically, we adopt a three segment band plan, consisting of: the LBS, extending from 2496-2572 MHz, and comprised of twelve 5.5-megahertz-wide channels, one 6-megahertz-wide channel, and one 4-megahertz-wide guard band; the MBS, extending from 2572-2614 MHz, and comprised of seven 6-megahertz wide channels; and the UBS, extending from 2614-2690 MHz, and comprised of twelve 5.5-megahertz wide channels, one 6-megahertz-wide channel, and one 4-megahertz-wide guard band. MDS channel 1 will be relocated from 2150-2156 MHz to 2496-2502 MHz, the LBS, and MDS channel 2 will be relocated from 2156-2162 MHz to 2618-2624 MHz, the Upper Band Segment."

In the description, LBS refers to "Lower Band Segment", MBS refers to the "Middle Band Segment" and UBS is the "Upper Band Segment." The LBS and UBS are reserved for low power operation, with the guard bands separating them from the MBS, which is reserved for high power use. The signal strength limit for the low-power bands at the boundaries of the geographic service areas is 47 dBìV/m. For two-way systems, the transmitter power output of response stations is limited to 2.0 watts. Low power operation under existing Part 15 rules is allowed in the 2655 to 2690 MHz band. The MBS is divided into 6 MHz channels, consistent with the existing ITFS/MDS band plan.

The FCC Report and Order explains how existing licenses will be handled under the new band plan:
"Under the band plan we adopt in this order, a licensee that presently has four interleaved 6 megahertz channels and four associated 0.125 megahertz response channels will receive 16.5 megahertz of contiguous spectrum in either the LBS or UBS, a 6 megahertz channel in the MBS, and 1 megahertz of contiguous spectrum in either the J or K guard bands after the transition. A licensee presently assigned one channel in the band, will receive one 5.5-megahertz channel in either the LBS or UBS or one 6-megahertz channel in the MBS. The provision of contiguous spectrum, combined with the deployment of compressed digital signals, will provide incumbents with the opportunity to maintain their current level of analog operations. At the same time, the relocation of MDS Channels 1 and 2 to the band will make these channels more useful as part of a contiguous broadband service band and may foster competition and new service options."

For details on how licensee will be transitioned from the old band plan to the new one, a graph of the new band plan, a discussion of comments received in the rulemaking, and copies of the new rules, see the Report and Order (FCC 04-135). One major change to the rules is that Subpart I is removed from Part 74 of the FCC Rules and a new subpart M - Broadband Radio Service and Educational Broadband Service added to Part 27 of the Rules.