fcc building-1On March 23, 2017, the FCC enacted an Order to modernize its rules and regulations governing the 800 MHz Cellular Service band in order to encompass modern wideband mobile broadband service technologies such as LTE. The FCC stated that the movement away from the outdated command-and-control regulatory paradigm, originally created for commercial mobile services using narrowband technologies, to a flexible use model for the band would ease administrative burdens, reduce barriers to innovation and investment, and allow mobile broadband providers to provide service to the public more efficiently.

Specifically, the FCC implemented reforms of the 800 MHz Cellular Service band’s rules in the four following areas:

Cellular Power Rules – The FCC adopted new power rules for Cellular services based on power spectral density (PSD) metrics utilized in other spectrum bands for mobile broadband services.  The new PSD limits for Cellular service are as follows: (1) 400 W/MHz ERP in non-rural areas, and 800 W/MHz in rural areas, without a power flux density (PFD) requirement; and (2) higher limits – up to 1000 W/MHz ERP in non-rural areas, and up to 2000 W/MHz ERP in rural areas (Higher PSD Limits). The FCC stated that the new Cellular power rules would enable mobile broadband providers to operate more efficiently in the 800 MHz spectrum without regard to usage of narrow or wideband technology.

Co-Existence with Public Safety Systems – The FCC also adopted safeguards to protect public safety operations from the increased possibility of unacceptable interference as a result of increased usage of wideband technologies by Cellular service providers. These safeguards include: (1) a one-time advance notification requirement for operations at high PSD limits; (2) PFD limit for a seven-year transition period “for Higher PFD limits”.; (3) convening a public forum to improve co-existence in the 800 MHz band; and (4) retaining Part 22’s existing interference resolution rules.  The FCC admitted that usage of PSD and PFD limits are incomplete measures for mitigating interference with public safety systems, and that other measures would be explored in the future.

Consistent Treatment with Other Flexible Use Spectrum – In an effort to streamline administrative burdens and adopt more efficient regulatory compliance obligations for service providers operating in the 800 MHz band, the FCC conformed the band’s technical rules to those used in similar flexible use spectrum including rules related to:  power measurement, out of band emissions, field strength, and discontinuance of operations. The FCC stated that conforming the 800 MHz band’s technical requirements with those of other flexible use spectrum would enable Cellular service providers to be more competitive in deploying new mobile broadband technologies.

Elimination of Unnecessary Rules and Regulatory Burdens – In an effort to spur the transition from legacy to broadband technologies used in the 800 MHz band, the FCC eliminated several rules and regulatory burdens for service providers. First, the FCC eliminated the requirement that providers file a minor modification application for any change to cell site that resulted in a reduction of service area coverage. Second, the FCC repealed the domestic coordination requirement for Cellular service providers deploying devices with a frequency re-use factor of one (e.g., CDMA, and certain LTE deployments). Finally, the FCC deleted certain provisions governing international coordination requirements that were deemed unnecessary or redundant.

Lastly, as part of the March 23rd decision, the FCC also issued a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comments on the removal of other Part 22 provisions related to Station inspection requirements, retention of Station authorizations, and EEO complaint reporting. The FCC proposed the elimination of these provisions on the grounds that they were outdated, costly and burdensome, and/or placed Cellular licensees at a disadvantage compared to other wireless services. Interested parties may file comments on the Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (WT Docket No. 12-40) thirty days after publication in the Federal Register, and reply comments are due sixty days after publication.

Should you have any questions regarding this article or the proceeding, please feel to contact Keenan Adamchak.