More than eight years ago, in response to a misguided Congressional directive that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was to initiate a process to auction Part 90 Public Safety frequencies in the 470-512 MHz band by 2021, the FCC imposed a stringent freeze on T-Band spectrum. On December 27, 2020, legislation was enacted that, among other actions, repealed the T-Band mandate. As a result, in an ex parte filing submitted to the FCC, the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) urged the FCC to lift the T-Band freeze as promptly as possible, but to do so in a way that allows T-Band incumbents the opportunity to implement system upgrades and expansions that have been denied them for almost a decade before opening this spectrum to new entities.
Specifically, EWA suggested that the FCC should first issue a Public Notice announcing that the application freeze will be modified sixty (60) days thereafter to allow incumbent Business/Industrial Land Transportation (B/ILT) licensees to file new or modification applications in their currently licensed market(s). The FCC would also process pending renewal applications, as well as applications modifying existing systems that were filed prior to implementation of the T-Band freeze but that have not been processed. After the 60-day period, the T-Band freeze should be lifted entirely. EWA noted that its suggestions were for the benefit of Business Enterprise incumbents, not public safety licensees who may require a different approach.
Additional recommendations included incorporating the minimum efficiency standard, including for new licenses filed after the 60-day period. Applications from B/ILT licensees whose authorizations already meet the efficiency standard or whose modification applications request emission designators consistent with it would be accepted during the 60-day period.
“The T-Band application freeze has been particularly painful for B/ILT licensees,” said EWA President Mark Crosby. “The mandate to auction T-Band never included these licensees, yet they were placed in limbo for nearly a decade, unable to modify their systems to accommodate critical communication requirements. It’s not possible to make these licensees whole but accommodating their system requirements through a phased application process would be fair, equitable and justified.”