AFC Accepting 4.9 GHz Applications

The FCC has lifted the 4.9 GHz licensing freeze for “certain” incumbents and APCO can now process your application at minimal cost.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released Public Notice DA 21-1320 on October 21, 2021, modifying the 4.9 GHz current licensing freeze rules allowing certain applications to be filed and processed effectively adding them to the list of “excepted applications”. Specifically, applications will be accepted if they comply with the following rules:

  1. Applications filed by incumbent 4.9 GHz licensees to modify existing licenses in the 4.9 GHz band, whether for permanent fixed sites or geographic areas; and
  2. Applications filed by incumbent 4.9 GHz licensees for new permanent fixed site operations located within their licensed service areas.

Note 1: Current pending applications are now eligible for acceptance and processing as newly filed.

Note 2: The Commission retains the freeze on applications for new licenses authorizing operations of any kind (geographic area or permanent fixed site operations) in the 4.9 GHz band filed by entities who do not already have existing 4.9 GHz band licenses.

Note 3: Applicants continue to have the option to submit requests for waiver of this freeze on a case-by-case basis pursuant to section 1.925 of the Commission’s rules. Waiver requests must describe the special circumstances of the application and why it is justified.

Background: FCC Announces Temporary Filing Freeze for the 4940-4990 MHz Band

The FCC initiated the freeze on September 8, 2020, releasing Public Notice DA 20-1048 to announce that applications for new or modified operations in the 4.9 GHz band would not be accepted and pending applications will not be processed. The purpose of the freeze was to stabilize the 4.9 GHz spectrum landscape and to maximize the Commission’s flexibility in considering the appropriate proposed rules governing the band. The decision to implement the freeze was consistent with a string of Report and Orders and Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM’s) released by the Commission starting with FCC 12-61 on June 13, 2012, and ending with the most current NPRM FCC 23-3 on January 18, 2023.

Existing and future applicants can expect future rule changes in the band affecting licensing procedures and technical parameters. For example, the proposed rules allow aeronautical mobile and robotic use, alternative band eligibility such as critical infrastructure industries, as well as spectrum leasing for alternative uses (i.e., 5G). New applicants for new stations and licensees seeking modifications will be required to submit to frequency coordination administered by FCC-certified frequency coordinators.

Furthermore, the ULS database will serve as the frequency coordination database and therefore additional technical information may be requested from existing users so their operations can be protected during future coordination. Note that the Commission is proposing to grandfather existing licensees and their installed systems. Finally, there are several proposed changes to the technical parameters such as expanding the channel aggregation bandwidth limit to 50 MHz and increasing the maximum power levels to match the limit under Part 101.

Eligibility and Use

Eligibility (per current rules)

Public safety services as defined under Part 90 rule section 90.523 are eligible to hold a 4.9 GHz license. All state or local governmental entities are eligible to hold 4.9 GHz licenses. Entities not eligible to hold a license, but which perform operations in support of public safety, (such as utilities) can negotiate sharing agreements with 4.9 GHz public safety licensees. The federal government is not eligible to hold 4.9 GHz licenses but can share state and local public safety systems. Sharing of systems must be by written agreement between the licensee and the party sharing the system and all communications by the non-licensee must be in support of public safety, related to the protection of life, health or property.

Types of Uses

The 4.9 GHz band has been allocated to public safety for broadband technologies. Communications must be related to the protection of life, health or property.
Examples of types of uses are:

  • Wireless LANS for incident scene management
  • Mobile data • Video security • VoIP • PDA connectivity
  • Hotspots
  • T1 line replacement
    • Broadband permanent fixed point-to-point operations are co-primary to base mobile and temporary fixed operations
    • Narrowband permanent fixed point-to-point operations are secondary to base/mobile and temporary fixed operations

For further details on band plan, technical requirements, protection of co-channel and adjacent channel users, etc., refer to this document.