FCC announces rules for first US 5G spectrum auctions

03 August 2018 | Natalie Bannerman

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established the applications and bidding procedures for its upcoming Spectrum Frontiers auctions.

The rules refer to the sale and allocation of Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service licences in the 28GHz and 24GHz bands, which will hopefully speed up the deployment of 5G services in these bands.

Licences for the band will be offered through two auctions with separate application and bidding processes for each one. 28GHz UMFUS licences will begin 14 November with the 24GHz will start directly after the first auction ends.

For auction 101 (28Ghz) the standard simultaneous multiple round auction format will be used. The 28GHz licences will be offered in two 425MHz blocks sorted by county.

For auction 102 (24GHz) a clock auction format will be used, starting with a clock phase that will allow bidding on generic blocks in each partial economic area in successive bidding rounds. After this there will then be an assignment phase to allow the winners of the generic blocks to bid for frequency-specific licence assignments. The 24GHz licences will be offered in seven 100MHz blocks.

Additionally, the FCC also proposed plans to prepare the upper 37GHz, 39GHz and 47Gz bands for auction.

In the Fourth Futher Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is proposes:

• To modify the 39GHz, Upper 37GHz, and 47GHz band plans from 200MHz to 100MHz channels.
• An incentive auction that would offer contiguous blocks of spectrum throughout the 39GHz, Upper 37GHz, and 47GHz bands.

Just as with the first announcement the proposed auction would have two phases: a clock phase and an assignment phase. Incentive payments would be offered to incumbents who choose to give up their spectrum usage rights to make new licenses available.
• Proposes a pre-auction voucher exchange that would allow incumbent licensees to consolidate their holdings before the auction.
• Proposes to repack any incumbent licensees that choose not to participate in the incentive auction and seeks comment on various options for repacking.

At the same time the FCC announced that it would accelerate the process and reduce the costs of attaching new network facilities to utility poles, in order to enable broadband providers to enter new markets and deploy high-speed networks.

The process is called "one-touch, make-ready" and enables the new attacher to move existing attachments and performs all other work required to make the pole ready for a new attachment, rather than spreading the work across multiple parties.

"Today, we adopt one-touch make-ready (OTMR) in order to help accelerate broadband deployment and competition across the country," said Ajit Pai (pictured), chairman of the FCC.

"OTMR promises to substantially lower the cost and shorten the time to deploy broadband on utility poles. It allows a new provider who wants to attach to a pole to move all the wires and equipment in just one "touch." It’s a bit like having to go to the grocery, the dry cleaner, and the bank. The slow way to do this would be to visit each business but return home each time. The rational thing we all do is to do each errand, one after the other, all on one trip. That’s essentially what OTMR is."

However the process will not apply to more complicated attachments, or those above the "communications space" of a pole, where safety and reliability risks are greater.