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Broadband Personal Communications Service (PCS)

The Broadband Personal Communications Service (PCS) is in the 1850 – 1990 MHz spectrum range. The most common use of Broadband PCS spectrum is mobile voice and data services, including cell phone, text messaging, and Internet.

Similar services include the 700 MHz Service, Advanced Wireless Service (AWS), 800 MHz Cellular, and Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) Service.

Background
Broadband PCS dates back to 1989 when the FCC received several petitions for rulemaking for additional spectrum for “emerging technologies,” including the spectrum in the 1850 – 1990 MHz range. In 1993, the FCC announced service rules for Broadband PCS. Initially, Broadband PCS included 120 MHz of licensed spectrum and 20 MHz of unlicensed spectrum. Later, 10 MHz of the unlicensed spectrum in the 1910 – 1915 and 1990 – 1995 MHz range (this is sometimes referred to as the G Block) became available for licensed use because of an FCC rule change.

Licensing
The FCC uses an auctions process to issue initial Broadband PCS licenses. You can also gain access to Broadband PCS spectrum through the secondary market, which allows licensees to transfer or lease spectrum.

You can find information about Broadband PCS licenses in the Universal Licensing System (ULS) and the Spectrum Dashboard. The ULS radio service code and description for Broadband PCS is CW – Broadband PCS, except for the G Block, which is CY – 1910-1915/1990-1995 MHz Bands, Market Area.

The FCC service rules for Broadband PCS are located in 47 C.F.R. Part 24.

Market Areas and Channel Blocks
Broadband PCS licenses are issued by FCC market areas and channel blocks.

FCC market areas consist of one or more counties. The market areas for Broadband PCS licenses are:

  • Major Trading Areas (MTA) - There are 51 MTAs
  • Basic Trading Areas (BTA) - There are 493 BTAs
  • Economic Areas (EA) - There are 175 EAs

Channel blocks are groups of frequencies. The channel blocks for Broadband PCS licenses are:

  • Block A: 1850 - 1865 and 1930 - 1945 (30 MHz) - issued by MTAs
  • Block B: 1870 - 1885 and 1950 - 1965 (30 MHz) - issued by MTAs
  • Block C: 1895 - 1910 and 1975 - 1990 (30 MHz, 15 MHz or 10 MHz) - issued by BTAs
  • Block D: 1865 - 1870 and 1945 - 1950 (10 MHz) - issued by BTAs
  • Block E: 1885 - 1890 and 1965 - 1970 (10 MHz) - issued by BTAs
  • Block F: 1890 - 1895 and 1970 - 1975 (10 MHz) - issued by BTAs
  • Block G: 1910 - 1915 and 1990 - 1995 (10 MHz) - issued by EAs

Auctions
The first of nine Broadband PCS auctions started on December 5, 1994 and ended on March 13, 1995. The nine auctions are:

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