800 MHz Cellular Licensing Reforms
This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order involves the 800 MHz Cellular Service. The 800 MHz Cellular Service helped transform the communications landscape by making mobile wireless services broadly available to the American public. Today, most markets are almost completely licensed, with only limited unlicensed Cellular Service area remaining.
Currently, the Cellular Service is licensed on a site-by-site basis, and FCC rules require licensees to file individual applications even for minor technical changes that result in changes to the licensee's authorized service area. The site-based licensing model is not used for other mobile wireless services that are similar to the Cellular Service such as the Broadband Personal Communications Service (PCS), the 700 MHz Service, and the Advanced Wireless Service (AWS). These services are licensed on a geographic basis, and FCC rules do not require licensees to file individual applications in many instances, including for minor technical changes. In the most served Cellular markets in particular, site-based licensing may unduly limit licensees’ ability to adapt to technological and marketplace changes, burdening licensees and consuming FCC staff resources.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking includes a proposal to revise the licensing model for the Cellular Service from a site-based model to a geographic-based model. The proposal is to issue a geographic "overlay" license for each Cellular market and corresponding channel block in two stages using a "Substantially Licensed" test for the first stage. As proposed, Substantially Licensed means at least 95% of the total land area in a market and corresponding channel block is licensed or there is no unlicensed parcel within the market and corresponding channel block at least 50 contiguous square miles in size. Under the proposal, the overlay licensee will be obligated to protect existing licensees' Cellular operations from harmful interference.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking also includes proposals to update various other Cellular Service rules. For example, there are proposals to streamline application requirements and delete outdated data collection requirements, such as certifications associated with cessation of analog service, often referred to as the “analog sunset,” that may no longer be necessary.
In anticipation of changes to the Cellular Service rules, the Order includes:
- A freeze on the filing of certain Cellular applications in certain markets; and
- Interim procedures regarding currently pending applications.
- Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order: Word | PDF
- News Release: Word | PDF
- Genachowski Statement: Word | PDF
- McDowell Statement: Word | PDF
- Clyburn Statement: Word | PDF
Data (as of 1/11/2012)
- Interactive Map of A Block CGSAs
- Interactive Map of B Block CGSAs
- Map Files for Each Market
- Maps of CGSAs for Each Market
- Lists of "Substantially Licensed" and "Covered" Markets: Excel