Three key organizations—the American Petroleum Institute (API), the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) and the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC)—filed a joint request with the FCC to freeze 900 MHz license applications for six months, during which time the groups would develop a plan to establish a block of contiguous spectrum that could be used for private broadband networks using LTE technology.

API, EWA and UTC officials outlined their plan to create a “900 MHz Private Land Mobile Broadband” (PLM BB) initiative in a letter submitted to the FCC last week. If the FCC grants the requested six-month freeze on 900 MHz licenses, a working group of “interested organization and licensees” would develop a spectrum plan proposal that would transform the 5x5 MHz of 900 MHz Industrial/Business (I/B) spectrum into a 2x2 MHz band for existing LMR systems and a 3x3 MHz swath to support private LTE networks.

Sprint owns most of the spectrum licenses that would be impacted in the band, according to EWA President and CEO Mark Crosby. In fact, because members of API, EWA and UTC combine with Sprint to represent “almost 95% of everybody that’s in the band,” negotiating a deal is more realistic than in other spectrum bands, he said.

“What would we like to do?” Crosby said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Well, we’d like to take control of our own destiny and introduce LTE broadband technology into this band. Let us manage it, and give us six months to figure it out. We have a 3x3 [MHz] block contiguous for the [LTE] network, and 2x2 [MHz blocks] for uses that are in use today. And a 2x2 [MHz block] supports 160 channels—that’s a lot of channels.”

And that 160-channel figure is important, because it should ensure that no existing LMR systems will be at risk of losing any capacity, Crosby said.

“The [LMR] incumbents that are there, we will find a home for them, because there’s no place in the United States where the private industrial guys at 900 MHz are using 160 channels that I know of,” he said. “No one’s losing spectrum. A couple of people might need to moved to get the 3x3 MHz contiguous, but they’re not going to lose anything. They’re going to have their way paid to move.”