This window is a unique opportunity for Tribes in rural areas to directly access unassigned spectrum over their Tribal lands, subject to buildout requirements. The 2.5 GHz band is suitable for both mobile coverage and fixed point-to-point uses, and is currently used to provide broadband service by legacy educational licensees and commercial providers that lease the spectrum. Depending on your needs, it can play an important role in the deployment of broadband and other advanced communications services on your Tribal lands. Please find more detailed information below, including how to determine whether 2.5 GHz spectrum is available over your Tribal lands.
The Rural Tribal Priority Window will open on Monday, February 3, 2020, and will close on Monday, August 3, 2020.
Who is eligible?
Any federally recognized Tribe or Alaska Native Village may apply for spectrum in the Rural Tribal Window. Consortia of federally recognized Tribes and/or Native Villages, or other entities controlled and majority owned by such Tribes or consortiums, are also eligible to apply.
Applicants in the Rural Tribal Window may designate their own desired license areas, so long as the entire area is rural Tribal land, and the applicant has a local presence in the area. “Rural” means an area that does not include an urbanized area with a population of > 50,000 people, according to Census Bureau data. "Tribal land," for this purpose, means any federally recognized Tribes’ reservation, including former reservations in Oklahoma and Alaska Native regions established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act or Indian Allotments. If you have questions about a particular area’s eligibility, please contact us at RuralTribalWindow@fcc.gov.
What is available?
The spectrum available in this window is a portion of the 2.5 GHz band, consisting of three different channels: one 49.5 megahertz channel, one 50.5 megahertz channel, and one 17.5 megahertz channel. Tribal applicants may apply for one, two, or all three of these channels, depending on availability.
In the Rural Tribal Window, tribal applicants may apply for any of the spectrum in these channels that is not currently licensed to another entity, as long as the desired license area is rural Tribal land (see "Who is eligible?" above). Current licenses in this band cover approximately 50% of the geographic area of the United States.
In order to apply for a license in the Tribal Priority Window, there must be some spectrum on the channel and over the rural Tribal land that is not currently licensed to another licensee. If there is any unassigned spectrum, an eligible Tribal entity may choose to apply for an overlay license for the entire channel over the whole qualifying Tribal land. Once a license is issued, the Tribal licensee will immediately have the authority to operate in those areas and on those channels that are not licensed to another licensee. The Tribal licensee will not have the authority to operate in areas covered by an existing license, even if the existing licensee is not operating in that area. If the existing license is cancelled or expired, however, the Tribal licensee will automatically acquire the authority to operate on rural Tribal land in the spectrum and area previously covered by the existing license.
To see if spectrum is available in your area, please select the Maps tab above. You can also use the geographic search function in the Universal Licensing System (ULS), the FCC Wireless Bureau’s online application and licensing system.
Successful applicants in the Rural Tribal Window will receive a license from the FCC to use their spectrum. This license comes with certain conditions and requirements.
First, licensees must put their spectrum to use. Two years after the license is granted, licensees must submit evidence that they are providing service coverage to 50% of the population in their license area (the interim deadline). This means that 50% of the population must be able to access the service if they choose; it does not require a 50% adoption rate. Five years after the license is granted, licensees must show that they are providing service coverage to 80% of the population (the final deadline).* Failure to meet the interim deadline will advance the final deadline by one year, to four years after the license grant. Failure to meet the final deadline will result in the license being automatically cancelled. If the license is cancelled, the spectrum will revert to the overlay license holder for the relevant county.
Second, licensees may not sell or transfer their licenses until after the above buildout requirement is met. However, licensees may lease their spectrum, and the service provided by a lessee will be counted towards the buildout requirement.
* At the interim deadline, a licensee building point-to-point links must operate one link for each 50,000 people in the license area. At the final deadline, the requirement is one operating link for each 25,000 people in the license area.
Additional Rural Spectrum Opportunities
The Commission is making 3.5 GHz spectrum available to help bring broadband to underserved areas, including rural areas. Like 2.5 GHz spectrum, this mid-band spectrum is well suited to rural deployments. The Commission has established a three-tiered approach to access in this band, protecting incumbent operations, establishing Priority Access Licenses (PALs), which will be offered at auction, in the lower portion of the band, and making the remaining 80 MHz available via General Authorized Access. Not only can Tribal entities access, via GAA, this 80 MHz of spectrum to serve their Tribal Lands, they also may access up to the full 150 MHz where no PAL licensee is using the spectrum. Learn more about 3.5 spectrum opportunities.
The Rural Tribal Priority Window will open on Monday, February 3, 2020, and will close on Monday, August 3, 2020. More details about the application process will be announced by the FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau in a Procedures Public Notice. The Public Notice will be available on this page once it is released, and will include detailed instructions on submitting the required application forms.
The application process will use the Universal Licensing System (ULS), the Wireless Bureau’s online application and licensing portal. Applicants will need an FCC Registration Number (FRN) to apply. If you do not currently have an FRN, instructions on obtaining one are below. FCC staff will be available to assist applicants throughout the application process, including with technical or logistical issues. Please contact us at RuralTribalWindow@fcc.gov for application process questions or assistance.
Applying for an FRN:
To assist in determining if spectrum is available in your area, maps of each Eligible Rural Tribal Land have been created. These maps depict the general availability of spectrum within the respective area.
This mapping tool can be used by Tribal entities to help them assess whether and to what extent there is unassigned 2.5GHz spectrum available over their eligible Tribal lands. The mapping tool provides a high-level view of spectrum availability and allows users to link to the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS) to confirm the exact amount of eligible spectrum available.
To access the mapping tool and instructions for its use click on "Mapping Tool" button below.
Data Resources used to determine Eligible Tribal Lands and Channel 1,2,3 Incumbency:
US Census Bureau:
Full Data Sets
- December 12, 2019 – WebEx to the CIOs of the Alaska Tribal Health System
- December 17, 2019 – Northern Pueblos Workshop (Santa Fe, NM)
- December 19, 2019 – Tribal Spectrum Workshop (Gila River Indian Community, AZ)
- January 14, 2020 – FCC Rural Tribal Priority Window Workshop
Previous Outreach Events
- July 18, 2019 – Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes Conference (Mt. Pleasant, MI)
- July 31, 2019 – Native American Development Corp. Annual Conference (Billings, MT)
- August 21-22, 2019 – Tribal Communications Workshop (Billings, MT)
- September 23, 2019 – FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee
- September 28, 2019 – Department of the Interior Tribal Broadband Summit (Washington D.C.)
- October 8, 2019 – Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Annual Convention (Suquamish, WA)
- October 9, 2019 – Internet Society Indigenous Connectivity Webinar
- October 17-19, 2019 – Alaska Federation of Natives
- October 20, 2019 – FCC Tribal Communications Workshop (Albuquerque, NM)
- October 22, 2019 – National Congress of American Indians Conference (Albuquerque, NM)
- October 23, 2019 – Alaska Telecom Association Tech Showcase – Board Meeting (Anchorage, AK)
- November 5, 2019 – FCC Native Nations Communications Task Force
- November 12, 2019 – TribalNet Conference (Nashville, TN)
- November 15 , 2019 – 2.5 GHz Education of Broadband Services on Tribal Lands (Gallup, NM)
- November 19-20, 2019 – FCC Tribal Workshop (Blue Lake, CA)
- November 20, 2019 – National Tribal GIS Conference (Albuquerque, NM)
- December 3-5, 2019 – BIA Tribal Providers Conference (Anchorage, AK)
- Public Notice Announcing Dates for Rural Tribal Window and FCC Technical Workshop (December 2, 2019)
- Letter from Chairman Pai to Fawn Sharp, President, NCAI (December 2, 2019)
- Letter from Chairman Pai to Kevin Shendo, Education Director, Pueblo of Jemez (December 2, 2019)
- Letter from Chairman Pai to Keone Nakoa, D.C. Bureau Chief, Office of Hawaiian Affairs (December 2, 2019)
- Erratum (November 8, 2019)
- Public Notice Announcing the Mapping Tool (November 1, 2019)
- Report and Order (July 11, 2019)