4.9 GHz's role in public safety network pondered

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The Federal Communications Commission announced Oct. 15 that it's reopened the comment period on a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding public safety use of the 4.9 gigahertz band in order to accommodate FirstNet input.

FirstNet is the independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration charged with creation of a national public safety broadband network in the 700 megahertz band. The 4.9 GHz band could serve as a backhaul for the network, connecting it to the public Internet or the public switched telephone network.

Current rules could exclude giving FirstNet a license for the band, however, since it is not a public safety agency.   

Public safety has had exclusive license to the 4.9 GHz band since 2002 for fixed and mobile services, but in the Aug. 1 notice of proposed rulemaking for which the FCC is extending the comment period, the commission notes the band has gone underutilized. There are 2,442 licenses for 4.9 GHz public safety use--a scant number when compared to the fact of 89,476 local governmental jurisdictions in existence as of 2007.

The reasons for that are potentially many, including lack of a formal coordination mechanism between licensees to ensure non-interference, lack of an effective radiated power minimum in order to ensure narrow propagation, no interoperability standard (a deliberate FCC decision that the commission says now might be due for revision), and possibly even the decision to make the spectrum exclusive to public safety. Among the notice's inquiries is whether the FCC should open up the 4.9 GHz license to commercial users "on a secondary or other non-interfering basis subject to a shutdown feature to enable priority access by public safety entities."

For more:
- go to the FCC announcement of comment period extension
- go to the Aug. 1 notice of proposed rulemaking

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