On January 18, 2023 the FCC released the Seventh Report and Order (R&O) and Ninth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the 4.9 GHz band. In the R&O they establish a comprehensive and coordinated nationwide approach to managing the 4.9 GHz (4940-4990 MHz) band by establishment of a nationwide Band Manager. The Band manager will be selected based on its expertise and connections to the public safety community and will coordinate all operations in the band to ensure that any non-public safety use remains secondary to, and preemptible by, public safety operations. All frequency coordination for license applications in the 4.9 GHz band will be done by the Band Manager. The Band Manager will have three primary responsibilities:
- Frequency coordination for public safety applications:
- Incentivizing the use of the latest commercially available, including 5G; and
- Facilitating non-public safety use of the 4.9 GHz band.
To help facilitate formal frequency coordination in the band, existing licensees will be required to provide additional technical data regarding their system(s) including providing receive site information. This will be similar to licensing in FCC Part 101 for microwave systems. Before this can be implemented the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS) will have to be modified to capture the additional data, as well as amendments to the required FCC Form 601 Schedules. Once the necessary changes are made and announced in the Federal Register licensees will have at least one year to update their licenses with the required data. The exact deadline to submit the additional data will be identified in the notice published in the Federal Register.
The NPRM portion of the document seeks comment on a range of questions related to the implementation of the Band Manager model adopted in the R&O portion of the document. Topics include criteria for determining harmful interference for coordination, and the rights and responsibilities of the Band Manager in leasing excess spectrum to non-public safety entities. The Commission seeks comments on whether the Band Manager should lease spectrum from the licensee and then sub-lease it to the non-public safety entity, or should the licensee lease it directly with the Band Manager providing coordination and approval. How will leasing excess spectrum work in areas where there are multiple and sometimes overlapping licensees?
Appendix B of the document provides the Commission rules amended by the Report and Order. The full Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking can be found here: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-23-3A1.pdf or by searching for FCC 23-3.