As you may be aware, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or the “Commission”) recently established the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (“CBRS”) in the 3.5 GHz Band (3550 MHz – 3700 MHz).  The new CBRS will be governed under a three-tiered sharing model with incumbents granted priority access, followed by Priority Access License (“PALs”) holders and then General Authorized Access (“GAA”) users.  Frequency access for the CBRS will be coordinated by approved Spectrum Access System (“SAS”) administrators.  PALs will be available for purchase at auction and will receive protection from GAA use while GAA use is licensed-by-rule and must accept interference from all users.

Today, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) on proposed rule changes to the CBRS.  While many of the changes proposed may be positive for rural deployments and could encourage investment in the band and enhance the viability of PALs; some proposed changes could also make PALs out of reach for smaller carriers.

The NPRM was prompted by petitions filed by T-Mobile and CTIA in which each argued that changes to the rules governing PALs are necessary to promote 5G network deployment in the CBRS.  Under current rules, a maximum of 70 MHz of the band, or seven channels, will be made available for PALs in any given license area which is defined as a census tract.  A PAL will have a three-year, non-renewable term.  The NPRM seeks comments on whether to expand the PAL area to Partial Economic Areas or Counties and increase the license term to ten years with an expectation of renewal.  The Commission also seeks comments on whether to allow partitioning and disaggregation of PALs in secondary market transactions.  The NPRM did not include T-Mobile’s further request to make all 150 MHz on the 3.5 GHz band available for PALs.

If you would like additional information on the NPRM or would like to participate in a larger group filing comments in this proceeding, please contact Dee Herman [email protected] or Clare Liedquist [email protected].