On Wednesday, a coalition of Internet service providers (ISPs) and public interest groups submitted a petition for rulemaking to the FCC which would pave the way for a new point-to-multipoint (P2MP) fixed wireless service that would extend “affordable, high-throughput, last-mile broadband access in rural, exurban and other higher-cost areas” while providing “much-needed competition to incumbent fixed broadband providers in more densely populated areas.” 

The petition was filed by the Broadband Access Coalition (BAC) as Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) prevailed upon FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a letter to “explore possible new allocations in the mid-band frequencies, perhaps including the 3.7 GHz and 6 GHz bands . . . for both licensed and unlicensed networks.” BAC’s 23 members include (1) the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, (2) the Consumer Federation of America, and (3) the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition. Specifically, the proposed P2MP service would operate on a shared, licensed basis in the 3700-4200 MHz (i.e., 3.7-4.2 GHz) band, and the corresponding changes to Parts 25 and 101 of the FCC’s rules would result in “the only mid-band spectrum allocation for licensed P2MP fixed wireless broadband to rural, unserved, and underserved areas that would enable multiple providers to offer competitive gigabit or near-gigabit service.” Arguing that the petition “advances the Commission’s goals of promoting new technologies and services that can enable broadband deployment and competition,” the BAC stressed that access “to a substantial amount of mid-band spectrum is urgently needed to make fixed wireless broadband available to unserved and underserved rural communities.”

Although the 3.7-4.2 GHz band is already allocated on a co-primary basis to terrestrial fixed services (FS) and to fixed satellite service (FSS) space to earth stations, the BAC stated that the band remains “extremely underutilized” and that “there has been very limited shared use in the real world.” The BAC further maintained that Part 101 frequency coordination “will ensure that incumbent FSS and terrestrial point-to-point FS will not suffer harmful interference from band sharing with P2MP.” Asserting that his group’s plan to share the 3.7-4.2 GHz band with FS and FSS incumbents “represents the best path to competitive broadband services throughout the country,” an executive of BAC member Mimosa Networks told reporters, “we’re proud to be leading this initiative and anticipate bipartisan support.”