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Innovation in the Broadcast Television Bands: Allocations, Channel Sharing and Improvements to VHF


In this Notice, we initiate a process to further our ongoing commitment to addressing America’s growing demand for wireless broadband services, spur ongoing innovation and investment in mobile and ensure that America keeps pace with the global wireless revolution, by making a significant amount of new spectrum available for broadband. Through this Notice, we take preliminary steps to enable the repurposing of a portion of the UHF and VHF frequency bands that are currently used by the broadcast television service, which in later actions we expect to make available for flexible use by fixed and mobile wireless communications services, including mobile broadband. At the same time, we recognize that over-the-air TV serves important public interests, and our approach will help preserve this service as a healthy, viable medium. The approach we are proposing is consistent with the goal set forth in the National Broadband Plan (the “Plan”) to repurpose up to 120 megahertz from the broadcast television bands for new wireless broadband uses through, in part, voluntary contributions of spectrum to an incentive auction. Reallocation of this spectrum as proposed will provide the necessary flexibility for meeting the requirements of these new applications.

The specific bands under consideration are the low VHF spectrum at 54-72 MHz (TV channels 2-4) and 76-88 MHz (TV channels 5 and 6), the high VHF spectrum at 174-216 MHz (TV channels 7-13), and the UHF bands at 470-608 MHz (TV channels 14-36) and 614-698 MHz (TV channels 38-51); for purposes of this Notice, we will refer to this spectrum as the “U/V Bands.” This Notice proposes three actions that will establish the underlying regulatory framework to facilitate wireless broadband uses of the U/V Bands, while maintaining current license assignments in the band. First, we are proposing to add new allocations for fixed and mobile services in the U/V Bands to be co-primary with the existing broadcasting allocation in those bands. The additional allocations would provide the maximum flexibility for planning efforts to increase spectrum available for flexible use, including the possibility of assigning portions of the U/V Bands for new mobile broadband services in the future.  Second, we are proposing to establish a framework that, for the first time, permits two or more television stations to share a single six-megahertz channel, thereby fostering efficient use of the U/V Bands. Third, we intend to consider approaches to improve service for television viewers and create additional value for broadcasters by increasing the utility of the VHF bands for the operation of television services. 
By taking these important steps to facilitate wireless broadband uses in the U/V Bands, this Notice is the first in a series of actions that will allow us to make progress toward our goal of improving efficient use of the bands and enable ongoing innovation and investment through flexible use. We intend to propose further actions consistent with other of the Plan’s recommendations for the U/V Bands, including, but not limited to, the process of voluntarily returning broadcast licenses to the Commission and the licensing process and service rules for new fixed and mobile wireless communications services. As part of that process, the Commission will address the Plan’s proposal for channel re-packing, the band plan for recovered spectrum and other related issues and will provide full opportunity for public comment on those issues at that time.

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