In a speech delivered Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the FCC’s intention to conduct auctions this November of wireless broadband licenses in the 28 GHz band, which would be “followed immediately thereafter by an auction of spectrum in the 24 GHz band.”
The 24 GHz and 28 GHz millimeter wave channels slated for auction are included among frequency bands the FCC has already allocated or is still studying for fifth-generation (5G) wireless broadband use as part of the agency’s “Spectrum Frontiers” proceeding. Eight hundred fifty MHz of spectrum in the 28 GHz band and an additional 700 MHz in the 24 GHz would be sold in the first major auction of wireless broadband spectrum to be held by the FCC since the conclusion of last year’s broadcast incentive auction.
Noting that the FCC just last week “granted to Samsung the world’s first regulatory approval of 28 GHz base stations which will be used for a fixed wireless access 5G commercial solution,” Pai told his audience that the FCC will request stakeholder comment this spring on how the auctions should be structured. Pai stipulated, however, that the proposed auctions are contingent upon the enactment of FCC reauthorization legislation (i.e., the RAY BAUMS Act) which passed the House Energy & Commerce Committee last week and would allow the FCC to deposit auction proceeds directly with the U.S. Treasury. To enable the Treasury Department to arrange its processes in sufficient time to make an account available for the receipt of upfront auction payments, Pai said Congress would have to act on the RAY BAUMS bill no later than May 13.
As he highlighted the FCC’s commitment to ensuring that the U.S. will continue to play a major leadership role in the global race to 5G, Pai confirmed that the FCC will also propose “in the coming months . . . the next step needed to make the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz band available for commercial terrestrial use.” Pai also emphasized the importance of streamlining the deployment of wireless and wireline infrastructure on which 5G networks will be based. Confirming, “I have asked Commissioner [Brendan] Carr to lead on modernizing our wireless infrastructure rules,” Pai advised his listeners to “watch for an announcement on our next steps in the very near future.”