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Broadband Opportunities for Rural America


Broadband Opportunities

Wireless Broadband Services

How to Access Spectrum for Wireless Broadband Services

wireless imageThere are several mechanisms that the FCC uses to make spectrum available for wireless services, including licensed and licensed-exempt spectrum. Some licensed frequencies are designated for commercial use while others are allocated for use by public safety agencies. Many of the licensed frequencies can also be leased or transferred to other entities in the secondary market.

Some of the frequencies described below are used for fixed broadband service, while others are used for mobile, portable, or a combination of fixed and mobile service.

License-Exempt Spectrum (Part 15)

In spectrum that is designated as "unlicensed" or "licensed-exempt," users can operate without an FCC license but must use certified radio equipment and must comply with the FCC's Part 15 technical requirements, including power limits. Users of the license-exempt bands do not have exclusive use of the spectrum and are subject to interference.

  • Unlicensed & Unshackled: A Joint OET-OSP Paper on Unlicensed Devices and Their Regulatory Issues (pdf)
  • Part 15 Rules

Licensed Spectrum for Commercial Services

Licensed spectrum allows for exclusive, and in some cases non-exclusive, use of particular frequencies or channels in particular locations. Some licensed frequency bands were made available on a site-by-site basis, meaning that licensees have exclusive use of the specified spectrum bands in a particular point location with a radius around that location. The rights to use other bands, including all of those auctioned and licensed since 1994, were made available by particular geographic areas, such as Economic Areas (EAs) or Basic Trading Areas (BTAs). Some bands include a hybrid of these 2 models, in which the spectrum was initially licensed on a site-by-site basis, and then the "white space" around those licenses was auctioned and licensed on a geographic area basis.

Existing Licensed Services
The following spectrum bands have already been licensed and can be used for wireless broadband services:

FCC Spectrum Auctions

The FCC is always working to make new spectrum available for wireless services, including wireless broadband. The FCC typically puts new spectrum licenses for commercial services into the market using spectrum.

Licensed Spectrum for Public Safety

The FCC makes spectrum available for exclusive use by public safety agencies and first responders, such as state and local police and fire departments. The rules for certain frequencies are designed to allow public safety licensees to deploy broadband services.

Secondary Market for Licensed Spectrum

The FCC has taken significant steps to remove regulatory barriers and facilitate the development of secondary markets in spectrum usage rights. In 2003 and 2004, the FCC established new policies and procedures to facilitate broader access to valuable spectrum resources through the use of spectrum leasing arrangements, and streamlined procedures for approving license assignments and transfers of control. The FCC also provided for immediate processing of certain qualifying spectrum leasing and license assignment and transfer transactions.

Wireless Broadband Services
There are a variety of terrestrial wireless technologies available or being developed to provide broadband services. There are a range of options for accessing spectrum for wireless and satellite broadband services, including spectrum auctions, spectrum leasing, public safety spectrum licensing, and the use Part 15 equipment in license-exempt spectrum bands.
Wireless Broadband Technologies
How to Find a Licensee in Your Area

Wireless Resources
 Diagram of Wireless Broadband Networks (pdf)
 FCC's Wireless Broadband Task Force Report
 Wireless Broadband Fact Sheet (pdf)
 FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
 FCC Office of Engineering & Technology
 Wireless Broadband Forum (2004)
 Rural Wireless ISP Showcase and Workshop (2003)
 Wireless Competition Reports
 Spectrum Auctions
 Secondary Markets
 Wireless Facilities Siting Issues

FCC Proceedings Related to Wireless Broadband
The FCC has several ongoing proceedings related to wireless broadband services, spectrum, and technology.

 FCC Proceedings Related to Wireless Broadband

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