At the February 2020 open meeting, the Commission is scheduled to vote on procedures for the 3.5 GHz Priority Access License, or PAL, auction. Having taken the lead on the issue, I'll admit that it has been a long road to get here, but this important step represents one of the last actions the Commission needs to take to make these critical mid-band licenses available for 5G and other next-generation wireless services. Ultimately, this auction will provide the first new, mid-band licenses for 5G (albeit with inferior power limits), and it is expected that, given the importance of mid-band's capacity and propagation, it will provide a spectrum foothold for those deploying these next-generation networks. Yet, since this CBRS structure is the first of its kind to incorporate licensed and unlicensed-like opportunities, it is of interest to a wide variety of users.
It took a lot of work and compromise to fix the misguided licensing structure left over from the last Commission and to make licenses more attractive to a diverse assortment of potential bidders. This meant addressing the needs of traditional commercial mobile providers, utilities, private network users, fixed wireless providers, cable operators, the unlicensed community, and so many more. In the end, the final compromise offers county-sized licenses—far smaller than the Commission's normal size—in 10 megahertz blocks that are renewable like our traditional licenses, providing all potential applicants with the confidence needed to bid, invest, and deploy networks without the fear of capital investment being stranded. Licensees need the assurance that if they build, follow the rules, and put their spectrum into use to serve the American people, then they will not be at risk of losing their licenses in the future.
For those familiar with FCC processes, most of our auction procedures will look very similar to those we have used in the past. There is no need to reject a structure that has been a smashing success. One mechanism, however, that was planned for this auction in the Comment Public Notice did not make the cut. CMA-level bidding, which was part of the Comment Public Notice, and would have facilitated an applicant's ability to bid on licenses covering all the counties within a CMA, was opposed by a number of interested parties, and will not be implemented. It is important to note, this proposal would not in any way have changed the license size from county to CMA, provided a price break for CMA-level bidders, or changed the rules they needed to follow. Put another way, it was simply intended and designed to make the bidding process easier for those wanting coverage over a larger area. While I am not convinced by some of the arguments made against CMA-level bidding, throwing it overboard should neither alter bidding practices nor decrease the bidding pool. Thus, I asked Chairman Pai to jettison it as part of this new Public Notice.
Going forward, we will need to revisit the package bidding issue for future, unrelated auctions. Hopefully, the artificial limitations presented by the software will no longer hamper us in this respect. Bidders should be able to select which counties they want to include in a bidding package and not be shoehorned into a package designed by the Commission based on what is easiest to program in our software. This would allow bidders to pick those licenses and areas that they prioritize, and, therefore, assuage the concerns raised by many commenters.
Regardless, the CBRS Procedures Public Notice will get us to the June 25, 2020 auction. I am beyond pleased that we now have all the pieces in place for what I anticipate will be a successful auction, and I thank the Chairman for his leadership in getting us to this point. While there are still some outstanding issues that ought to be reconsidered in this band, such as ways to reduce the protection area sizes and increasing power limits, the auction is not dependent on these being resolved at this exact moment. Moreover, we may need to consider how to mitigate the potential of harmful interference occurring between future C-Band licenses and CBRS users as well. I will certainly be pushing hard to make these changes a reality as soon as possible.
Now, let's get to the PAL auction!