Spectrum coordinators initiate submittal of new T-Band applications
Spectrum coordinators last week submitted applications to expand land-mobile-radio (LMR) systems operating on T-Band spectrum (470-512 MHz) into a queue, with applications expected to be submitted formally to the FCC beginning next month and continuing through June, according to people familiar with the process.
Both public-safety and enterprise incumbent licensees operating T-Band radio systems were eligible to prepare applications with their spectrum coordinators during the past several weeks, and the coordinators submitted those requests into a processing queue last Thursday, Feb. 18. Coordinators have 30 days to resolve any conflict before beginning to submit the applications to the FCC for a 90-day period beginning March 22.
Given the fact that FCC froze any expansion of T-Band systems in April 2012, there predictably was considerable pent-up demand among incumbents to seek permission to make notable changes to their networks.
“I can tell you that several hundred apps probably were submitted [on Feb. 18] to the queue—collectively,” Mark Crosby, president and CEO of the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
“It appears to be a success. I don’t know yet, … but I think it’s all good, and the process seemed to have worked well.”
Farokh Latif, frequency-coordination director for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), agreed that he believes the initial queue process worked smoothly.
“It went really well,” Latif said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We had no issues whatsoever notifying the applications through the process that LMCC had agreed to. There were no glitches.
“We have notified our applications. Now, over the next 30 days, we’ll find out what sort of issues we may have with mutually exclusive applications. We’ll work with the other coordinators to iron those out and move forward.”
This current FCC process for the T-Band spectrum was established after then-President Donald Trump signed funding legislation in late December that included language repealing a mandate that the FCC begin auctioning T-Band spectrum this month.
The FCC froze T-Band activity in April 2012, less than two months after Congress enacted tax-relief legislation that included language creating the FirstNet Authority to build and maintain a nationwide public-safety broadband network. While that law allocated an additional 10 MHz of spectrum to the FirstNet public-safety mission, it also required public safety to vacate its T-Band spectrum in 11 metropolitan markets and for those airwaves to be auctioned for commercial use.
During this time, T-Band licensees were able to make some changes to their systems—for instance, migrating to narrowband-compliant technologies was allowed—but they were not allowed to expand the coverage footprint.
Incumbent T-Band licensees are the only eligible entities that can submit T-Band applications at this stage, and that period will extend into June. The FCC has not determine when—or if—new licensees will be able to submit licensing applications for the T-Band.
T-Band licensee were exempted from narrowbanding their LMR systems in 2014, because the FCC did not want them to invest in new equipment that would have be shuttered if the spectrum were auction this year as originally proposed. Last year, the FCC issued T-Band rules indicating its intention to have T-Band licensees eventually meet the narrowbanding mandate, but it has not yet established a timeline for doing so. This point could prove to be particularly important to the New York Police Department, because estimates to upgrade its vast T-Band system have exceeded $150 million.