FCC Circulates Draft NOI Exploring 900 MHz Band

September 16, 2016–FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today circulated to Commissioners a draft notice of inquiry that seeks comments on a 900 megahertz band petition for rulemaking filed by pdvWireless, Inc., and the Enterprise Wireless Alliance and another one submitted by M2M Spectrum Networks LLC. The NOI would explore the agency’s rules governing the 896-901/935-940 MHz bands. It would solicit comments on the two petitions, as well as alternative ideas, and would examine the potential for expanding operational flexibility in the 900 MHz band, according to an agency source.

An FCC official confirmed to TRDaily that the NOI would seek comments on whether the current regulatory framework meets the need of existing users and whether additional flexibility is warranted. It also would solicit input on whether other changes could improve efficient use of the spectrum. Because the item is an NOI, it doesn’t propose any rule changes, the official stressed.

The pdvWireless/EWA petition asked the FCC to realign the 900 MHz band to enable a private enterprise broadband network (TRDaily, Nov. 18, 2014). The action would allow  pdvWireless, which acquired Sprint Corp.’s 900 MHz band frequencies, to deploy a broadband network in a portion of that spectrum, giving priority access to utilities and other critical infrastructure entities. Many incumbent utilities have expressed concerns about the plan.

Representatives of pdvWireless and EWA had hoped last spring that the FCC would adopt a notice of proposed rulemaking in the proceeding, but they later learned that the agency instead was eyeing an NOI.

M2M filed a petition for rulemaking last year asking the agency to permit use of 900 MHz band business/industrial land transportation (B/ILT) channels to provide for-profit service to entities eligible to use those frequencies (TRDaily, Aug. 21, 2015). That petition has also drawn significant opposition.

pdvWireless Chief Financial Officer Tim Gray told TRDaily this afternoon that the company didn’t have any reaction to circulation of the draft NOI. “We’re going to allow it to go through the process,” he said. “We’ll put more comments around it when we can actually see a document and see what” questions the FCC asks, he added.

“EWA is pleased to see that this item has finally received a little traction at the FCC, if only at this point on 8th floor circulation,” said Mark Crosby, EWA’s president and chief executive officer. “We are eager to productively engage again in the forthcoming regulatory process.”

Pantelis Michalopoulos, an attorney for M2M, declined to comment.

– Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily