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Internet of Things Update: The FCC Gets Ready for 5G Spectrum Auctions

As we explained, 5G deployment will be a critical component to the ever-evolving Internet of Things (IoT). On April 17, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Public Notice seeking comment on the competitive bidding procedures for auctions involving spectrum in the 28GHz and 24 GHz bands. The auction of 28 GHz spectrum will begin on November 14, with the 24 GHz auction following after that. But what does this mean, and why is it important?

For those new to the world of FCC Auctions, a Comment Public Notice, such as the one just released, seeks input on the application process for the auctions and the procedures to be used while bidding. It is similar in form to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, in which the FCC seeks comments on a proposal and asks a variety of questions. After the comment and reply comment deadlines pass (May 9 and May 23, respectively), the FCC will take into consideration the input on the record. Next, the FCC will release a Procedures Public Notice, akin to an Order, that will lay out the rules that will be in force for the auction. The FCC will also announce the application windows to participate in the auction, and interested parties will apply to participate. This will all take place before the start of bidding in November.

These spectrum bands are seen as good options to help spur the deployment of 5G, and launching them this year is a critical step to providing the resources necessary as the race to 5G continues. Regarding these bands’ utility, the FCC has previously explained that the 28 GHz band “has ample capacity to accommodate a wide range of high data-rate applications, and … it can be quickly repurposed for new flexible uses, including mobile.” Similarly, in its 2017 Spectrum Frontiers Order, the FCC acknowledged that “24 GHz is particularly attractive for mobile use due to its international harmonization potential, proximity to the previously-established 28 GHz band, and its relatively low frequency (for a mmW band) and related propagation attributes.” The FCC has been carefully investigating the promises of these bands, and their importance to 5G makes the start of these auctions a very exciting development.

In his statement on the Public Notice, Chairman Pai also said that at the conclusion of these two auctions, the FCC “anticipate[s] auctioning additional bands in the near future.” This should make industry happy because although the 28 GHz and 24 GHz bands are an important part of the 5G picture, they represent only a portion of the resources that will be necessary for ubiquitous deployment of the technology. As more spectrum resources continue to be made available, we will continue to see advancements in this next generation mobile service.

And more 5G means more development and implementation of exciting new products in the Internet of Things.

© 2018 Covington & Burling LLP

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About this Author

Thomas Parisi, Communications and media lawyer, Covington
Associate

Thomas Parisi is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office. He focuses on telecommunications issues as part of the Communications and Media Practice Group.

Prior to joining the firm, he served as a Legal Advisor in the Wireline Competition Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission.

Mr. Parisi is a member of the Bar of Maryland. District of Columbia bar application pending; supervised by principals of the firm.

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