FCC Closer to Opening Up 2.5GHz Band for 5G

One small step for 2.5GHz… one giant leap for 5G?

With a homage to the coming 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first manned landing on the Moon, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced in a blog post Tuesday that the Commission is inching toward opening up underused portions of the 2.5GHz band for 5G.

Pai said he is circulating an order to open up the 2.5GHz band for 5G, billing it as the "single largest band of continuous spectrum below 3GHz." The matter will be voted on at the FCC's next monthly meeting, set for Wednesday, July 10.

Mid-band 2.5GHz spectrum is viewed as particularly advantageous for future 5G networks as it can support high capacities and travel far distances compared to the inherent shortcomings of millimeter wave spectrum, which has been used for some initial 5G-powered deployments. While millimeter wave spectrum supports super speeds, it's only usable over very short distances.

The plan to free up 2.5GHz spectrum fits into the FCC's "5G FAST" plan for freeing up capacity for 5G networks and services.

"Mid-band spectrum, which offers an important combination of 5G coverage and capacity, is central to our strategy," Pai explained, noting that much of the band "has been unused for decades."

The FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking to consider an updated framework for licensing spectrum in the 2.5GHz band (2496MHz – 2690MHz) last May. The action centers on licensing of the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum that "currently lies fallow across approximately one-half of the United States, primarily in rural areas," the FCC noted then, adding that access to the band has been "strictly limited" since 1995 with current licensees subject to "outdated regulations."

Sprint currently holds a sizable chunk of licensed spectrum in the 2.5GHz band.

The FCC action involving 2.5GHz follows a recent announcement for the FCC to hold spectrum auctions in the 37GHz, 39GHz and 47GHz bands on Dec. 10, 2019 that will involve the release of 3,400 MHz of spectrum.

The FCC is also taking a closer look at the C-Band, a strip of mid-band spectrum used today by satellite companies and others mostly for video transmission.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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