FCC Revises 700 MHz Rules to Advance Interoperable Public Safety Communications and Promote Wireless Broadband Deployment

Will facilitate effective communications among first responders as part of cooperative communications plans.

by / July 31, 2007

In a Second Report & Order (Order) adopted today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revised the 700 MHz band plan and service rules to promote the creation of a nationwide interoperable broadband network for public safety and to facilitate the availability of new and innovative wireless broadband services for consumers.

The 700 MHz Band spectrum, which runs from 698-806 MHz, currently is occupied by television broadcasters and will be made available for other wireless services, including public safety and commercial services, as a result of the digital television (DTV) transition. The Digital Television and Public Safety Act of 2005 (DTV Act) set a firm deadline of February 17, 2009, for the completion of the DTV transition. The DTV Act also requires the FCC to commence an auction of the previously unauctioned commercial spectrum in the 700 MHz Band no later than January 28, 2008.

In implementing Congress' directive to reallocate the airwaves, the Commission is focused on serving the public interest and the American people. The service rules the Commission adopts today help create a national broadband network for public safety that will address the interoperability problems of today's system, provide for a more open wireless platform that will facilitate innovation and investment, and facilitate the emergence of next generation wireless broadband services in both urban and rural areas.

Today's Order establishes a framework for a 700 MHz Public Safety/Private Partnership between the licensee for one of the commercial spectrum blocks and the licensee for the public safety broadband spectrum. As part of the Partnership, the commercial licensee will build out a nationwide, interoperable broadband network for the use of public safety. This network will facilitate effective communications among first responders not just in emergencies, but as part of cooperative communications plans that will enable first responders from different disciplines, such as police and fire departments, and jurisdictions to work together in emergency preparedness and response. Under the Partnership, the Public Safety Broadband Licensee will have priority access to the commercial spectrum in times of emergency, and the commercial licensee will have preemptible, secondary access to the public safety broadband spectrum. Many national and local public safety organizations have expressed support for a public safety/private partnership approach. Providing for shared infrastructure will help achieve significant cost efficiencies while maximizing public safety's access to interoperable broadband spectrum.

In order to promote broadband competition and the development of innovative wireless services for consumers, today's Order also makes several changes to the rules governing the commercial services portion of the 700 MHz Band. Most notably, the FCC determined that licensees for one of the spectrum blocks to be auctioned -- the large, 22-megahertz Upper 700 MHz C Block -- will be required to provide a platform that is more open to devices and applications. These licensees will be required to allow customers, device manufacturers, third-party application developers, and others to use any device or application of their choice on their networks in this band, subject to certain conditions. The FCC also adopted several changes to the 700 MHz band plan, the build-out requirements for licensees, and the auction procedures, as described below.

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