NextNav, Anterix, Ondas join rush toward 900MHz opportunities

NextNav is asking the FCC to reconfigure a portion of the 900MHz band to allow both 5G and positioning services. And NextNav isn't the only company seeking opportunities in 900MHz.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

April 16, 2024

4 Min Read
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(Source: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo)

NextNav on Tuesday filed a petition with the FCC to open a portion of the 900MHz band for services including positioning and 5G.

And NextNav isn't the only company working to introduce new communications services into the 900MHz band. Anterix, Ondas Networks and a variety of other companies are also eyeing the spectrum band for various communications services.

That's not a surprise. Due to the band's propagation characteristics, transmissions in 900MHz spectrum can potentially carry significant amounts of data across wide geographic areas, depending on how US regulators configure such operations.

As a result, such spectrum holdings can be very valuable. For example, T-Mobile is expected to begin selling a 13.5MHz slice of spectrum in the nearby 800MHz band for $3.6 billion or more.

The newest proposal

"In a time when spectrum is scarce, we have a solution to prioritize national security and public safety and free up spectrum for 5G. It's a win for Americans and the US economy," explained NextNav's new CEO, Mariam Sorond, in a release.

In its lengthy new FCC filing, NextNav asked the FCC to reconfigure spectrum between 902MHz and 928MHz – dubbed by NextNav as the "Lower 900 MHz Band" – to support positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) services, as well as 5G.

"It is unlikely that the US government will subsidize an extensive, standalone terrestrial PNT network," NextNav explained. "But there is a path to a widescale terrestrial PNT network if the FCC updates the rules for the Lower 900 MHz Band in a manner that allows it to be used for 5G so that the PNT network will be integrated within NextNav partners' broadband networks."

Continued NextNav: "Under this proposal, network partners would integrate NextNav's Lower 900 MHz Band spectrum into their 5G networks, and NextNav would implement, operate, and manage additional PNT-optimized infrastructure over the 5G network."

The company didn't name any potential partners for its proposal.

Other companies chasing the PNT opportunity include satellite operator Iridium.

The Anterix proposal

Earlier this year another group of companies, fronted by private wireless networking company Anterix, submitted another proposal to the FCC for the 900MHz band.

Specifically, the group is asking the agency to support a 5/5MHz configuration for private wireless networking in the 900MHz band alongside the 3/3MHz configuration the FCC approved in 2020.

"Once private networks are deployed, additional use cases and end points are likely to grow continuously, suggesting that additional capacity will be a welcome evolution. Creating a 5/5 megahertz opportunity either as an extension of a 3/3 megahertz system in response to those new use cases and/or capacity demands or as an initial broadband commitment would address that evolution," the companies wrote.

Companies including Ameren, Portland General Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and Xcel signed onto the proposal. All those companies have inked 900MHz spectrum agreements with Anterix, a company that's working to sell or lease its 900MHz holdings for private wireless networking deployments.

For its part, the FCC recently opened a proceeding on the proposal.

Other 900MHz efforts

To be clear, the NextNav and Anterix proposals cover just a sliver of the spectrum in the 900MHz band.

As a result, other companies are pursuing efforts in other portions of the band.

For example, Ondas Networks said it's working with Siemens to develop new communications technology for US railway companies in the 900MHz band. Company officials have suggested the total addressable market for the company's offerings in the band is worth $400 million.

"So, stay tuned," said Ondas CEO Eric Brock during his company's recent quarterly conference call, according to Seeking Alpha.

And in another portion of the 900MHz band, companies in the LoRa Alliance continue to develop Internet of things (IoT) services that adhere to the LoRa transmission standard.

"LoRaWAN is a purpose-built networking technology to support massive IoT," said Donna Moore, CEO and chairwoman of the LoRa Alliance, in a release detailing the association's new technology roadmap.

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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