On October 21, the FCC issued a public notice partially lifting the freeze on 4.9 GHz licenses, allowing existing 4.9 GHz band licensees to modify their licenses, and allowing existing 4.9 GHz band licensees to apply for new permanent fixed sites within their license areas. The partial lifting of the 4.9 GHz licensing freeze was effective immediately after this public notice was released.
The FCC was charged with partially lifting this freeze within 30 days of its September 30 adoption of an Order on Reconsideration and Eighth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) regarding 4.9 GHz spectrum. The freeze was lifted to facilitate effective use of the 4.9 GHz band pending resolution of the issues raised in the Eighth FNPRM.
The FCC imposed the 4.9 GHz licensing freeze on September 8, 2020, to maintain a stable spectral environment in the 4.9 GHz band while it considered changes to the service rules governing operations in the band. The freeze suspended the acceptance of:
- Applications for new licenses authorizing operations of any kind in the 4.9 GHz band.
- Applications to modify existing licenses authorizing operations in the 4.9GHz band, unless otherwise excepted.
The FCC’s October 21 notice immediately allowed the following applications to be accepted for filing and processing by the FCC:
- Applications filed by incumbent 4.9 GHz licensees to modify existing licenses in the 4.9 GHz band, whether for permanent fixed sites or geographic areas.
- Applications filed by incumbent 4.9 GHz licensees for new permanent fixed site operations located within their licensed service areas.
Pending applications that are now eligible for acceptance will be accepted and processed as newly filed. However, the FCC retains the freeze on applications for new licenses authorizing operations of any kind in the 4.9 GHz band filed by entities who do not already have existing 4.9 GHz band licenses. Pending applications that remain subject to the freeze, as well as future applications that are subject to the freeze, will be either dismissed without prejudice, or if accompanied by a waiver request, reviewed pursuant to the FCC’s waiver standard.
Applicants can submit requests for waivers to the existing freeze on a case-by-case basis. Any waiver request would need to demonstrate why it is justified by special circumstances and consistent with the public interest. The FCC encourages waiver applicants to document their state or local authority to operate, and to address the existing use of 4.9 GHz band spectrum by other state or local entities in the same jurisdiction.
The IAFC will continue to monitor the FCC’s proceedings on 4.9 GHz spectrum and ensure that public safety will retain primary usage of this important spectrum. For additional information, the PDF version of the FCC’s public notice may be viewed on the FCC website.
Ryan Woodward is the IAFC's manager of Government Relations and Policy.