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Amateur Radio Gets a Partial Reprieve on 3.5 GHz

03/22/2021

Pending future FCC action, amateur radio secondary use of the 3.3 – 3.45 GHz band segment may continue indefinitely. The FCC, as part of a lengthy Second Report and Order (R&O) for commercial licensing of 3.45 – 3.55 GHz adopted on March 17, agreed with ARRL that continued access by amateur radio to 3.3 – 3.45 GHz should be allowed until consideration of the 3.1-3.45 GHz spectrum in a later proceeding. The FCC action in WT Docket 19-348 represents a partial — and temporary — reprieve from the FCC’s December 2019 proposal to remove amateur radio from the entire band, and it makes available an additional 50 megahertz than an FCC proposal last fall to allow amateur temporary use of 3.3 – 3.4 GHz.

Amateur secondary operation in the 3.45 – 3.50 GHz band must cease 90 days after public notice that the spectrum auction has closed and licensing has begun. That is expected to happen early in 2022. The FCC announced the opening of 3.45 – 3.55 GHz for auction to commercial 5G interests on March 17.

The FCC stated that “While we adopt our proposal to bifurcate the band, we adjust our proposal and set 3450 MHz as the frequency at which the band will be split.” It agreed “with the ARRL’s assessment that the guard band is not necessary from a technical standpoint. We also recognize that the nature of amateur equipment realities makes the 50 megahertz at 3400-3450 MHz particularly valuable to amateur operators because it means existing equipment can continue to operate in the band for the time being.”

This allows “amateur operations to continue in the lower portion of the band while the [FCC and federal government users] continue to analyze whether that spectrum can be reallocated for flexible use,” the FCC said. The FCC had proposed splitting the band at 3.4 GHz, permitting amateur use in 100 megahertz of spectrum “while also providing a buffer to protect flexible-use operations at the lower edge of the 3.45 GHz band.”

“We therefore allow secondary amateur operations to continue in the 3.4 – 3.45 GHz portion of the band,” the FCC said. “We emphasize, however, that amateur licensees remain secondary users, and those that operate on frequencies close to the 3450 MHz band edge must do so with particular caution to avoid causing harmful interference to flexible-use licensees in the 3.45 GHz Service, which hold primary status. In light of these considerations, while amateur operations between 3450 MHz and 3500 MHz must cease within 90 days of the public notice announcing the close of the auction for the 3.45 GHz Service, as specified in the Report and Order; amateur operations may continue between 3300 MHz and 3450 MHz while the Commission, NTIA, and the DoD continue to analyze whether that spectrum can be reallocated for commercial wireless use.”

“There is no expectation that such operations will be accommodated in future planning for commercial wireless operations in this spectrum, or that amateur operators will receive more than a short period of notice before their operations must cease,” the FCC said.



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