Parties Weigh In On 700 MHz Band Spectrum

Parties have weighed in on a notice of proposed rulemaking released by the FCC in March (TRDaily, March 8) concerning rules to protect against harmful interference in the 700 megahertz band public safety spectrum, including by urging the Commission to lift a freeze on equipment certification and supporting the consolidation of technical service rules for the nationwide public safety broadband network under the agency’s part 90 regulations. Several entities also said that the relocation costs of public safety narrowband incumbents in the broadband spectrum should be covered.

In the NPRM, adopted in PS dockets 12-94 and 06-229 and WT docket 06-150, the FCC sought comments on technical rules it should adopt for the public safety broadband network that the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has been charged with overseeing. For example, it solicited views on power limits, emission limits, field strength limits, interference coordination, international considerations, the guard band, and equipment certification.

The NPRM also asked how the Commission should assess whether FirstNet qualifies for a renewal of its public safety broadband license. It also sought views on how to treat other existing or planned users in the FirstNet spectrum, including incumbent narrowband operations. The FCC asked how those incumbents should be transitioned to other spectrum, where they should be moved, who should manage the transition, and who should pay for it. For example, it asked whether it can require FirstNet to manage the process and whether usage fees from the FirstNet network can be used to relocate incumbents.

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council said it “supports the Commission’s proposal to consolidate the technical service rules for the public safety broadband network under Part 90 of the rules. NPSTC recommends that relocation costs for narrowband 700 MHz operations in the public safety broadband spectrum be an eligible expense under FirstNet’s broadband deployment funding. Finally NPSTC recommends a process for the narrowband relocation, including availability of a portion of the 700 MHz public safety guardband spectrum for narrowband vehicular repeater operation.”

The federation added that “NTIA, FirstNet and FCC should coordinate to determine relative responsibilities and develop and implement a relocation mechanism. We recommend that FirstNet, in consultation with the Commission, consider an approach that allows the legitimate costs of relocating these narrowband 700 MHz systems in the spectrum in accordance with the revised bandplan to be designated as an eligible expense under the broadband deployment funds Congress has provided FirstNet. As addressed by the Commission in the Notice, the continued presence of narrowband systems in the broadband spectrum will unduly constrain broadband deployment. NPSTC agrees it is necessary to relocate these narrowband systems as part of the broadband deployments and therefore believes the legitimate relocation costs should be an eligible expense covered under the broadband deployment funding.”

“As the Commission rightly points out, rules concerning the D Block are currently in Part 27, while rules governing the existing public safety broadband spectrum generally fall under Part 90,” the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International said. “APCO agrees with the Commission’s proposal to develop a set of unified rules for the expanded public safety broadband allocation and to remove, where possible, redundant or parallel provisions from Part 27 of the Commission’s rules.”

APCO also said it “defers to FirstNet’s preferences regarding interference coordination, yet cautions the Commission to refrain from adopting any unnecessary procedures or requirements that would have the effect of introducing additional complexity on network planning with little or no corresponding benefit.”

Regarding equipment certification, APCO said that it “understands the Commission’s reasoning for suspending acceptance and processing of any new equipment authorizations in the public safety broadband spectrum. However, APCO urges the Commission to act swiftly to take all actions necessary to enable the equipment authorization process to re-start. APCO would support issuance of an earlier order that focuses on this matter to avoid further interruptions in the development of equipment necessary for the PSBN operations.”

Regarding the relocation of entities that currently use spectrum licensed to FirstNet, APCO said that “mechanisms must provide fair and reasonable reimbursement for public safety narrowband incumbent licensees that are forced to relocate to accommodate the PSBN. The goal should be to afford FirstNet with the greatest possible range of options to address these matters, so that it can ensure the deployment of an advanced, interoperable, public safety broadband network while protecting the interests of incumbents.”

The state of New Mexico said the FCC “should terminate all commercial authorizations now licensed on D block spectrum pursuant to the statutory directive of Congress or, at a minimum, limit these operations to secondary status for the remainder of the license term. Immediate Commission action is necessary to meet the mandate of Congress under the Spectrum Act for a nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network on specifically designated spectrum within the 700 MHz band and to allow New Mexico to move forward without any ambiguity as to spectrum rights under a lease with FirstNet for deployment of a critical public safety project.”

The Virginia State Police submitted comments touting its Statewide Agencies Radio System (STARS). “STARS is a vital statewide public safety communications system serving a geographic area critical to the nation’s homeland security,” it said. “FirstNet should pay for the transition costs as a first step in clearing the 700 MHz spectrum for a nationwide 700 MHz broadband public safety system. During any transition, it is critical that interference with existing public safety field operations should be avoided.”

The state of Illinois noted that it is a narrowband licensee in the public safety broadband spectrum and urged the “Commission, in consultation with FirstNet, to provide a definitive source of funding and a rational process to implement the relocation. The State deployed its 700 Narrowband system under valid authority from the Commission and should not be required to bear the cost of the relocation. In addition to sufficient funding, the State and other public safety licensees facing relocation will need a process that recognizes the real work needed to complete the relocation process. Finally, that process must not compromise our public safety operations during or after relocation implementation.”

“We believe that the resulting strategy/nationwide build-out plan and accompanying rules should have further enabled early build out of the PSBN by State and local jurisdictions in a uniform/interoperable way providing for a foundational baseline for the FirstNet PSBN,” Fairfax County, Va., said. “Loosening of the Commission’s onerous STA requirements and encouraging State and local jurisdictions to build using a process longer than a renewable six month STA should be encouraged, since the potential seven billion dollars allocated to build the PSBN is not enough. Thus, State and Local deployments will enhance the FirstNet PSBN and bring additional funding to build-out the network.”

“As it adopts new Technical Service Rules, TIA encourages the Commission to maintain as much consistency with existing requirements as is possible. Doing so will help prevent unnecessary uncertainly or confusion,” the Telecommunications Industry Association said. “TIA further requests that the Commission move quickly to FCC end the equipment certification freeze initiated pending the adoption of rules.”

AT&T, Inc., said it generally concurs with the technical rules proposed by the Commission. The carrier said that “the Commission should adopt technical service rules for the nationwide public safety broadband network in the 700 MHz band that will promote interoperability within that network and with commercial broadband networks operating in the 700 MHz band. In turn, the Commission should adopt technical service rules for the nationwide public safety broadband network in the 700 MHz band that mirror technical service rules for commercial broadband networks in the 700 MHz band. To do so, the Commission should use the technical service rules in Part 27 for commercial broadband networks as models for technical service rules to be adopted in Part 90 for the nationwide public safety broadband network.”

In joint comments, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and NTCA said “the Commission should prescribe clear network deployment phases with rural coverage milestones and requirements to encourage FirstNet to leverage existing commercial rural wireless and wired assets for the efficient construction of the public safety network. The Commission also should institute technical service rules for the 700 MHz public safety spectrum that align with existing rules for other Commercial Mobile Radio Services (‘CMRS’) bands and with relevant industry standards, thereby establishing the foundation for interoperability between spectrum bands. Interoperability will enable FirstNet to leverage common technology including equipment developed for commercial use.”

Similarly, the Coalition of WISPs for FirstNet said that “FirstNet will be most effective in serving certain areas if the FCC exercises its oversight responsibility to give FirstNet regulatory incentives to make the best use of its licensed spectrum. Therefore, the WISP Coalition urges the Commission to assess FirstNet’s compliance, in part, by reference to rural construction milestones that the Commission adopts at the earliest opportunity. While FirstNet is in its early stage, WISP Coalition members disagree with the Commission’s tentative position that it would be premature for the Commission to specify rural milestones at this time for FirstNet’s license. To the contrary, now is the time, during the planning process, to move toward setting expectations for those who would take on the obligations to meet the performance and construction requirements of the FirstNet license.”

“One way to provide these incentives would be to adopt a ‘substantial service’ approach keyed to specific deadlines where the service provider could meet the requirement by providing a minimum level of service to rural areas,” the coalition added. “‘Rural areas’ would be defined as a condition of the FirstNet license, and the definition could draw on existing precedents.”

Motorola Solutions, Inc., said it “supports many of the Notice’s proposals and urges the Commission to move swiftly in adopting final rules that will pave the way for public safety broadband deployment. MSI recommends herein modest changes to the Commission’s proposals that are designed to aid the Commission in establishing rules that support FirstNet’s crucially important mission while giving it the necessary flexibility to carry out its obligations under the Spectrum Act.

“Specifically, MSI supports the Commission’s proposals to bring the D Block spectrum under Part 90 of the rules and provides several recommendations on appropriate changes to enable more efficient and effective use of the available spectrum,” the company added. “Regarding FirstNet’s licensing renewal requirements, MSI urges the Commission to exercise its statutory obligations to oversee FirstNet’s performance in managing the development of the nationwide broadband network. To that end, MSI recommends that the Commission establish tentative construction and performance benchmarks for FirstNet and require FirstNet’s reports to be made public for notice and comment. This process will provide the Commission with valuable input for assessing whether FirstNet has satisfied all requirements, including compliance with recommended minimum technical requirements, and warrants license renewal. Finally, MSI urges that 700 MHz narrowband relocation costs be considered an eligible expense of broadband deployment.”

Harris Corp. asked the FCC “to provide clear guidance and distinct definitions of key components of the NPSBN in its service rules for the expanded public safety broadband spectrum. A primary focus of these rules must be on the protection of first responders operating narrowband and broadband mobile stations in 700 MHz spectrum from unwanted emissions from adjacent operations. … To that end, Harris endorses the Commission’s proposal to include D Block service Rules in Part 90 to make a unified set of service rules for the entire expanded public safety broadband spectrum band. Additionally, the Commission should mitigate interference by making clear distinctions in type and rule parameter for the diverse mobile and base stations classes that will be used in this spectrum.”

Harris said it “proposes key technical rules in its comments to further the goal of interference protection and focuses on the unique communication needs of public safety in this and adjacent bands. Specifically, while use of the internal public safety guard band may serve the public interest at some point, it is essential that practical experience with actual operation of LTE in the extended public safety broadband spectrum be experienced and assessed first. Additionally, to enhance opportunities for rural deployment of the NPSBN, population density power limits should be replaced with maximum power limits that allow flexibility to maximize rural operation. Harris fully supports the Commission in its proposal to establish a 3 watt power limit for portable devices and the proposed power flux limit consolidation in this spectrum, considering the vital needs of public safety. Moreover, it appears evident that field strength limits to support deployment of more than one RAN are not needed in this spectrum.”

Ericsson, Inc., said it “supports removing D-Block service rules from Part 27 of the Commission’s rules and placing them, instead, in Part 90. This is appropriate to ensure that D-Block and existing public safety broadband spectrum benefit from a common set of rules. Ericsson cautions, as the Commission considers transitioning D-Block service rules to Part 90, that it maintain a key guiding principle of the current rules: namely, the ability for public safety to utilize commercial off-the-shelf technologies. Such rule changes should also not add additional costs or complexity to building the nationwide PSBN by introducing proprietary or non-standardized solutions for public safety.”

“Consistent with its prior advocacy in this docket, Alcatel-Lucent agrees with the Commission’s proposal to consolidate the technical rules for the D Block and existing public safety broadband spectrum so the entire FirstNet spectrum allocation is subject to a common set of rules,” Alcatel-Lucent said. “Alcatel-Lucent further supports that the newly unified technical rules governing FirstNet’s operations mirror commercial operations in the 700 MHz band to the maximum extent possible. The proposal to move technical service rules from Part 27 to Part 90 achieves this. Specifically, Alcatel-Lucent concurs with the Commission’s specific proposals as they apply to power limits, antenna height limits, and emissions limits, including consolidation of emissions limits supporting operation of Global Positioning Satellite L1 receivers. With respect to field strength limits, we do not recommend regulating field strength limits for the PSBN at this time. In particular, from a Radio Frequency (‘RF’) planning perspective, there is an expectation that FirstNet, as the nationwide licensee, will provide RF guidelines for interference management (e.g. definition of overlapping areas) to ensure the sum of overall individual deployments form a virtual single footprint.”

General Dynamics Corp.’s C4 Systems business unit said it “strongly supports the proposed rule making unifying the technical service requirements applicable to D Block spectrum (758–763MHz/788–793MHz) and the existing public safety broadband spectrum (763–768MHz/793–798MHz). Removing the service rules for D block from Part 27 and placing them in Part 90 will allow equipment intended for providing public safety services in both D block and public safety broadband spectrum to be certified using a single set of rules. Unifying the rules for these two spectrum allocations will also make it possible to provide a single service spanning these two frequency allocations, which is not possible under the current service rules. As an added benefit, while the single regime will provide operational, cost, and schedule benefit to public safety, the industrial base will benefit because duplicative certification processes will be eliminated.”

“The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has been charged with the critical responsibility for establishing a nationwide public safety broadband network (PSBN) in the 700 MHz band. To help FirstNet carry out this important duty, the Commission has proposed unified technical service rules to govern the PSBN, with a goal of mitigating the potential for harmful interference to PSBN users as well as users in other bands,” Access Spectrum LLC noted. “Access Spectrum supports this goal and, consistent with it, urges the FCC to ensure that the new service rules avoid harmful interference to operations in the Upper 700 MHz A Block, a 2×1 MHz block that is immediately adjacent to the Upper 700 MHz D Block. Avoiding such interference will not require burdensome requirements to be imposed on the PSBN. To the contrary, because cellular Long Term Evolution (LTE) operations in the PSBN are expected to be compatible with similar systems in neighboring bands, it appears likely that in many cases the Commission can achieve adequate interference protection simply by applying the rules proposed in the NPRM (many of which currently govern public safety broadband spectrum) to the D Block.”

Iridium Satellite LLC said, “As the Commission fulfills its statutory duties as the licensing authority for the FirstNet network, it should ensure that its regulatory framework accommodates the integration of Iridium’s unique MSS capabilities in the nationwide public safety communications system.”

Cognitive radio technology firm xG Technology, Inc., urged the FCC “to consider the merits of a shared spectrum system like xMax,” its cognitive radio technology system. “Current xMax products operate virtually interference free in the unlicensed 900 MHz band and can be produced to operate in FirstNet’s 700 MHz band.” – Paul Kirby,