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ARRL General Bulletin ARLB028 (2020)

ARLB028 FCC Orders Amateur Access to 3.5 GHz Band to "Sunset"

QST de W1AW  
ARRL Bulletin 28  ARLB028
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  October 8, 2020
To all radio amateurs 

ARLB028 FCC Orders Amateur Access to 3.5 GHz Band to "Sunset"

Despite vigorous and continuing opposition from ARRL and others, the
FCC has ordered the "sunsetting" of the 3.3 - 3.5-GHz amateur radio
secondary spectrum allocation. The decision allows current amateur
activity on the band to continue, "grandfathering" the amateur
operations subject to a later decision. The FCC proposed two
deadlines for amateur operations to cease on the band. The first
would apply to the 3.4 - 3.5 GHz segment, the second to 3.3 - 3.4
GHz. The FCC will establish the dates once it reviews additional

"We adopt our proposal from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to
remove the amateur allocation from the 3.3 - 3.5 GHz band," the FCC
said in its R&O. "[W]e adopt changes to our rules today that provide
for the sunset of the secondary amateur allocation in the band, but
allow continued use of the band for amateur operations, pending
resolution of the issues raised in the Further Notice."

The Report and Order (R&O) and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
in WT Docket No. 19-348 adopted on September 30 followed a 2019 FCC
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in which the FCC proposed
re-allocating 3.45 - 3.55 GHz for "flexible-use service" and
auctioning the desirable "mid-band" spectrum (generally defined as
between 1 GHz and 6 GHz) to 5G providers. These and other recent
spectrum-repurposing actions stem from the MOBILE NOW Act, enacted
in 2018, in which Congress directed the Commission to make
additional spectrum available to auction for mobile and fixed
wireless broadband. The FCC action is consistent with worldwide
allocations adopted by the ITU for these frequencies.

The Report and Order can be found online in PDF format at, .

In the run-up to the Commission's decision, ARRL met with the FCC's
professional staff to explain its concerns and to answer questions.
Subsequently, ARRL met with the wireless advisors to the FCC
Chairman and two Commissioners. In those meetings, ARRL reiterated
that continued secondary status for amateurs will not impair or
devalue use of this spectrum by the primary licensees intending to
provide 5G or other service. ARRL noted amateur radio's long history
of successful coexistence with primary users of the 9 cm band,
sharing this spectrum with the federal government users and
secondary, non-federal occupants.

ARRL pointed out that vital links in amateur television and amateur
radio high-speed mesh networks using the band have been especially
valuable during such emergency situations as the wildfires currently
raging on the west coast. Deleting the amateur secondary allocation
will result in lost opportunities for experimentation and public
service with no public interest benefit to make up for that.

ARRL argued that deleting the secondary allocation would waste the
scarce spectrum resource, particularly in areas where commercial
services often do not construct full facilities due to small
populations. The FCC action means that amateur radio will lose
access to the 3.5-GHz secondary allocation even where commercial
operations do not exist. ARRL told the Commission that it should not
intentionally allow this spectrum to be vacant and unused, wasting
the public resource, when amateurs can use some portion of it in
many geographic areas with no detriment to any other licensee, just
as it has in the past. ARRL argues that amateur operations should be
permitted until and unless an actual potential for interference

Deletion of the 3.3 - 3.5 GHz secondary amateur allocation will
become effective on the effective date of the FCC's order, but
amateur radio operation as of that date may continue while the FCC
finalizes rules to license spectrum in the 3.45 - 3.55 GHz band and
establishes deadlines for amateur operations to cease. The FCC
proposed allowing amateur operation in the 3.3 - 3.4 GHz portion of
the band to continue "pending further decisions about the future of
this portion of the spectrum," the timing for which is unknown. The
Commission proposed to mandate that operations cease in the 3.4 -
3.5 GHz portion when commercial licensing commences for the new 3.45
- 3.55 GHz "5G" band, which is predicted to begin in the first half
of 2022.

"[W]e seek comment on whether it is in the public interest to sunset
amateur use in the 3.3 - 3.55 GHz band in two separate phases, e.g.,
first above 3.4 GHz, which is the focus of [the R&O] and later in
that portion of the band below 3.4 GHz," the FCC said.

ARRL expressed gratitude to the many members and organizations that
joined ARRL in challenging the FCC throughout this nearly year-long
proceeding. They included multiple radio clubs, weak signal
enthusiasts, moonbounce participants, and the Amateur Radio
Emergency Data Network (AREDN), the Amateur Television Network
(ATN), AMSAT, and Open Research Institute (ORI).

ARRL will continue its efforts to preserve secondary amateur radio
access to 3.3 - 3.5 GHz. Members are invited to share comments by
visiting .

"We recognize that any loss of our privileges will most directly
impact radio amateurs who use the frequencies to operate and
innovate," said ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR. "Such instances
only embolden ARRL's role to protect and advocate for the Amateur
Radio Service and Amateur Satellite Service. There will be continued
threats to our spectrum. So I urge all amateurs, now more than ever,
to strengthen our hold by being ceaseless in our public service,
experimenting, and discovery throughout the radio spectrum."


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