On June 1, 2011, the FCC will begin accepting applications from public safety entities for the licensing of channels in the 809.5-815/854.5-860 portion of the 800 MHz band (channels 251-470) that have been relinquished by Sprint Nextel at certain locations within each National Public Safety Planning Advisory Committee (NPSPAC) Region. Previously, the FCC ordered that spectrum vacated by Sprint Nextel in the Interleaved portion of the band (809-815/854-860 MHz) be made available first to public safety entities and then to critical infrastructure industry (CII) entities.
These channels (if any are remaining after the public safety entities access them) will be available for licensing by CII eligible entities beginning on June 1, 2014. The FCC is making available for licensing additional locations vacated by Sprint for channels previously released by the FCC. These additional locations include Economic Area (EA)-based licenses. While no new channels are being made available for licensing, the locations made available here will allow for licensing of previously released channels over a larger geographic area within a NPSPAC region. While not specifically addressed in the public notice, implicit in these provisions is the principle that incumbent non-public safety licensees may not expand their interference contours, for at least three years, into areas covered by the co-channel contours of the relinquished Sprint Nextel site-based or geographic licenses.
Except for channels assigned to relocating licensees by the 800 MHz Transition Administrator (TA), both the 815-816/860-861 MHz Expansion Band block and the 816-817/861-862 MHz Guard Band block, remain unavailable for licensing. The date and conditions under which the 800 MHz Expansion Band and Guard Band channels will be made available will be announced in a future FCC notice.
Licensing of these locations will be limited to public safety entities for the next three years (until June 1, 2014), and to public safety eligible entities and critical infrastructure industry eligible entities for years four and five (from June 1, 2014 to June 1, 2016). Generally, entities that provide utility services qualify as critical infrastructure industry eligible entities. After this initial five year period, the channels will be available for licensing by all Part 90 eligibles.
Parties may use the FCC’s “Vacated Channel Search Engine” (which is accessible at http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchLicense.jsp) to identify specific channels that are available for licensing. The FCC will update this search engine on a regular basis with additional information regarding available channels as Sprint Nextel and other licensees cancel or modify their licenses.
Beginning on June 1, 2011, frequency coordinators may file applications on behalf of public safety applicants using the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS). Applicants may not apply for more than five channels per fixed location. Applications must include a certification of frequency coordination by an eligible frequency coordinator. When coordinating applications for vacated site-based channels, the frequency coordinator also should confirm that the 22 dBu V/m F(50,10) contour of the proposed facility does not extend beyond the 22 dBu V/m F(50,10) contour of Sprint Nextel’s originally licensed station. Similarly, when coordinating applications for vacated EA-based channels, the frequency coordinator should confirm that the 40 dBu V/m F(50,50) contour of the proposed facility does not extend into an adjacent NPSPAC region where the channel is unavailable for licensing. Implicit in these provisions is the principle that incumbent non-public safety licensees occupying these channels may not expand their interference contours, for at least three years, into areas covered by the aforementioned contours of the relinquished Sprint Nextel site-based or geographic licenses.
Each frequency coordinator also must notify all other participating coordinators of each application submitted to it for coordination before filing the application with the FCC – this notification process will begin on May 18, 2011. Coordinators may submit notifications electronically and the exact date and time of each notification will be time-stamped in a shared database. All participating frequency coordinators are to check each notified application for mutual exclusivity with other notified applications. If conflicts are found, the application with the earliest notification date and time stamp will take precedence. Frequency coordinators also may apply “engineering solutions” to resolve conflicts between applications.
Sprint Nextel may continue to operate on these channels after new licenses are granted until it receives notice that a new licensee intends to use the channels. Upon receipt of such notice, Sprint Nextel must cease operation on the channels specified in the notice within 60 days to the extent necessary to comply with co-channel spacing requirements.