The FCC has extended portions of its secondary markets regime, which permits private leasing of radio spectrum, to Mobile Satellite Spectrum (MSS) used for terrestrial services pursuant to the FCC’s Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) rules. In addition, the FCC added co-primary fixed and mobile allocations to the MSS band at 2 GHz. The FCC’s order can be found here. These actions are designed to implement the National Broadband Plan’s goal of allocating more spectrum for terrestrial mobile broadband services.
The FCC began extending the use of MSS in 2003, when it authorized MSS operators to license and operate ATC facilities, which are terrestrial base stations and mobile terminals that re-use frequencies assigned for MSS operations. The FCC expects that MSS/ATC spectrum operators will begin deploying terrestrial services and become increasingly like other mobile terrestrial wireless services in the market. In order to provide consistency with other services where leasing is permitted, the FCC extended its secondary markets rules to MSS/ATC spectrum. Given the nature of MSS/ATC rules, the FCC authorized only “spectrum manager” type of leases, where the licensee retains de facto control of the spectrum and primary responsibility for compliance with the license. The licensee has flexibility to lease only specific portions or geographic areas of its spectrum.