T-Band Revisited, New FirstNet Authority CEO. Just to refresh your memories, the T-Band is the 470–512-MHz spectrum that was allocated to UHF-TV channels 14-20 that has since been made available to both public safety and, in some areas, business Land Mobile Radio (LMR) users. This was implemented in a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) action in 1971 and today there are eleven major metro areas that make use of the T-Band.
When Congress passed the bill authorizing FirstNet it included other provisions as well. One of these was that the T-Band would be available for spectrum auction nine years after the bill was signed. Once the auctions were over, the public safety community would have to vacate the spectrum within another two years. Those in Congress who added this provision to the bill indicated they had to have a “give-back” of some type to help them justify the release of ten additional megahertz of 700-MHz spectrum for public safety. It was not clear in the law who would pay for T-Band users to move off the T-Band nor where the FCC would find spectrum to accommodate them.
Some in Congress at the time FirstNet was passed into law believed FirstNet would be able to absorb all of the existing LMR users in these eleven metro areas. However, as of today, FirstNet is not ready to take over complete public safety-grade services including off-network voice communications and other functions needed by first responders. Therefore, as the deadline approaches, efforts to have Congress review and rescind this portion of the law have been stepped up.
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