wireless towerThe FCC today took two steps aimed at spurring rural mobile broadband deployment, including revising the rules for the mobility auction challenge process and establishing a procedure to explore the use of additional spectrum for mobile broadband and potentially other uses.

Mobility Auction Challenge Process
When the FCC put plans in place for a mobility auction earlier this year, the commission initially anticipated using data provided by carriers on Form 477, which the carriers are required to file with the commission, to determine areas eligible for the mobility auction. That auction will award funding to carriers to help cover the costs of deploying 4G LTE service to areas where that service is not currently available.

The commission now plans to undertake a new data collection process aimed at better determining where 4G LTE service is available. That data will be used to create a map of areas eligible for the auction and, as the FCC explained in a press release, interested parties will have a window after the release of the map to file challenges to areas deemed ineligible for the auction. Providers will have an opportunity to respond to those challenges.

The decision to revise plans for the mobility auction process came in response to concerns expressed by industry stakeholders about the accuracy of using Form 477 data in determining 4G LTE availability, said FCC officials at today’s monthly meeting, where rules for the challenge process were put in place.

Spectrum Exploration
FCC spectrum exploration plans took the form of a notice of inquiry focusing on what the commission called “mid-range” spectrum between 3.7 GHz and 24 GHz. Three bands are of particular interest for potential sharing with incumbent users, FCC officials noted. These include the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, the 5.925-6.425 GHz band, and the 6.425-7.125 GHz band.

The NOI seeks comment on issues such as how to protect existing users from harmful interference and how to best provide for flexible use of those bands. FCC officials said the commission would address exclusive spectrum used by non-government users first, followed by government-used spectrum.

The commission previously explored shared use of spectrum above 24 GHz and below 3.7 GHz, officials said at today’s meeting.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly noted that European regulators and some Asian countries are looking at using spectrum in the 3.4 GHz to 3.8 GHz band for next-generation wireless services and that the U.S. should consider international spectrum harmonization. He also noted that making spectrum in the 6 GHz band available on an unlicensed basis could help ease congestion in the 2.4 and 5 GHz unlicensed bands.