The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai recently proposed that the C-band spectrum be cleared and put up for public auction. That proposal has garnered a significant amount of pushback from several senators and public interest groups. However, major telecom carriers like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have all come forward to express their support for Pai’s idea.
If this proposal was to go through the lower 280 megahertz of the C-band would be available for flexible use through a public auction. It’s important to note that that use includes 5G networks. That spectrum is currently used by satellite operators that are utilizing the entire 500 Mhz band. Luckily for those satellite operators, Pai’s proposal includes a clause that would have auction winners pay the satellite companies for relocation costs.
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg released a statement about the potential this proposal has. “Today is a monumental day in our nation’s efforts to maintain wireless leadership in 5G,” said Vestberg. “Chairman Pai’s historic announcement sets forth a bold vision for bringing much needed mid-band spectrum to auction this year. Most importantly, his plan ensures that this critical spectrum is not only auctioned quickly, but cleared on an accelerated basis. This speedy transition will undoubtedly ensure that the U.S. will preserve its global leadership in 5G and will produce hundreds of billions of dollars in economic benefits for the country.”
AT&T released a statement echoing Verizon’s sentiments. “We are encouraged that the FCC is taking the next critical step toward making this valuable mid-band spectrum available for mobile flexible use, while at the same time recognizing the critical need to have an orderly and timely transition in place to protect the content programming ecosystem currently relying on C-Band and impacting over 100 million U.S. households,” said AT&T Executive Vice President of Regulatory & State External Affairs Joan Marsh. “We look forward to reviewing the details of the draft order and working with all stakeholders to ensure that both the auction and the transition are a success.”
Opponents of the proposal content that the FCC should wait for Congress to legislate the rules surrounding C-band auctions to ensure that the sales benefit the public, and not just specific companies. The FCC argues that waiting for Congress will simply take too long.
C-band is going to be auctioned off at some point in the near future. At this point the question really comes down to whether that auction will include legislation or not. This is an important space to watch.