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3.5 GHz Band / Citizens Broadband Radio Service

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 Rulemaking 12-354

The Report and Order and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted by the Commission on April 17, 2015 established a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service for shared wireless broadband use of the 3550-3700 MHz band (3.5 GHz Band). Rules governing the Citizens Broadband Radio Service are found in Part 96 of the Commission’s rules.

The new rules will provide a number of tangible benefits for consumers, businesses, and government users. First, the new rules will support important national defense missions by protecting incumbent radar systems from interference. Second, the new rules will make additional spectrum available for flexible wireless broadband use, leading to improved broadband access and performance for consumers. Finally, we expect to see wide deployment of wireless broadband in industrial applications – advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare, etc. – supporting innovation and growth throughout our economy.

The creation of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service was originally proposed in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released in December of 2012. Since then, the record has been supplemented by a Commission-level Public Notice on licensing issues and two workshops to discuss technical issues related to the proposed Service. In April of 2014, the Commission released a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that included detailed proposed rules to govern the new service.

The Citizens Broadband Radio Service is governed by a three-tiered spectrum authorization framework to accommodate a variety of commercial uses on a shared basis with incumbent federal and non-federal users of the band. Access and operations will be managed by a dynamic spectrum access system, conceptually similar to the databases used to manage Television White Spaces devices. The three tiers are: Incumbent Access, Priority Access, and General Authorized Access.

Incumbent Access users include authorized federal and grandfathered Fixed Satellite Service users currently operating in the 3.5 GHz Band. These users will be protected from harmful interference from Priority Access and General Authorized Access users.

The Priority Access tier consists of Priority Access Licenses (PALs) that will be assigned using competitive bidding within the 3550-3650 MHz portion of the band. Each PAL is defined as a non-renewable authorization to use a 10 megahertz channel in a single census tract for three-years. Up to seven total PALs may be assigned in any given census tract with up to four PALs going to any single applicant. Applicants may acquire up to two-consecutive PAL terms in any given license area during the first auction.

The General Authorized Access tier is licensed-by-rule to permit open, flexible access to the band for the widest possible group of potential users. General Authorized Access users are permitted to use any portion of the 3550-3700 MHz band not assigned to a higher tier user and may also operate opportunistically on unused Priority Access channels.

The Report and Order also includes:

  • rules governing the integration of existing 3650-3700 MHz Wireless Broadband Service into the Citizens Broadband Radio Service and temporary protections for existing licensees in that service;
  • high level rules governing the operation of Spectrum Access Systems;
  • provisions to protect FSS earth stations within and adjacent to the 3.5 GHz Band; and
  • technical rules for base stations and end user devices in the band.

The Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks focused comment on three discrete issues. These issues are:

  • additional protection criteria for in-band and out-of-band FSS earth stations;
  • appropriate secondary markets rules for the band;
  • how to define whether GAA frequencies are in use at a particular location.

You can view the comments filed in this proceeding in our Electronic Comment Filing System.


Report and Order and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (April 17, 2015)
Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (April 23, 2014)
3.5 GHz Spectrum Access Workshop (January 14, 2014)
Public Notice Seeking Comment on Licensing Models and Technical Requirements (November 1, 2013)
3.5 GHz Workshop (March 14, 2013)
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (December 12, 2012)

Additional Releases

Public Notice - Scheduling of Future Releases in GN Docket No. 12-354 (June 25, 2015)
Public Notice – Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Reminds Licensees in the 3650-3700 MHz Band Wireless Broadband Service and 3550-3650 MHz Band Non-Federal Radiolocation Service of Requirements for Construction and Operation (June 25, 2015)
Machine Readable List of Non-Rural Census Tracts

Incumbent Protection:

NTIA Letter to FCC on Commercial Operations in the 3550-3650 MHz Band 
Protected Federal Incumbent Sites 
Registered FSS Earth Stations

Related Links:

Blog Post: Breaking Down Barriers to Innovation in the 3.5 GHz Band (April 21, 2015)
Blog Post: Innovation in the 3.5 GHz Band: Creating a New Citizens Broadband Radio Service (March 27, 2015)
Blog Post: New Ideas in the “Innovation Band" (April 23, 2014)
PCAST Report (July 2012)
NTIA Fast Track Report (October 2010)