As part of a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) adopted by a unanimous vote yesterday, the FCC will consider the possible allocation of mid-band spectrum between 3.7 GHz and 24 GHz for “expanded flexible” uses that include licensed fifth-generation (5G) broadband and unlicensed services.

The NOI was spurred, in part, by the advocacy of Intel Corp., Verizon Communications, wireless association CTIA, Apple, the Wi-Fi Alliance and other members of an ad hoc coalition which supports access to the 3.7 GHz-4.2 GHz band for licensed mobile services and to the 6 GHz band for unlicensed services. Although the coalition has not filed a formal petition with the FCC, members have met during the past month with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly who has voiced support for the proposal. Meanwhile, the Broadband Access Coalition—whose members include the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, Cincinnati Bell and the Consumer Federation of America—filed a petition for rulemaking in June for the establishment of a new, licensed point-to-multipoint fixed wireless service in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, which is currently designated for fixed satellite services.

Stating that the FCC’s goal is to explore “all potential options to meet the ever-increasing demands for spectrum,” the NOI seeks comment on potential usage of the 3.7-4.2 GHz, 5.925-6.425 GHz and 6.425-7.125 GHz bands while asking respondents to identify “other non-federal mid-range frequencies that may be suitable for expanded flexible use.” Among other things, the NOI also requests input on (1) how the Commission can “best provide for flexible use of these bands to allow the introduction of additional fixed and mobile wireless services,” (2) how fixed satellite and other incumbent licensees can be protected against harmful interference, (3) which authorization mechanisms should be used to “maximize efficiency and promote flexible wireless use,” and (4) whether existing FCC rules can be modified or eliminated to reduce regulatory burdens and maximize efficient spectrum use.