National U.S. coordination consists of a non-federal and federal component, which both typically begin once a submitted application is off “Accepted for Filing Public Notice” and a draft grant is prepared.  The FCC is not involved in coordination between two U.S. operators (non-federal), which is handled directly between parties. However, if coordination cannot be reached, then the operators can request FCC assistance.

If the application requests authority to operate in a frequency band that is shared on an equal, or subordinate, status with Federal users or stations in other services, federal coordination may be required with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The NTIA is a government agency that manages federal use of spectrum for agencies like DoD, DOC/NOAA/NESDIS, and NASA. Each federal agency has a frequency assignment subcommittee (FAS) representative. Each agency also decides which frequencies can be shared, based on its own policies, allocations, and availability. Once the application is filed, formal coordination is conducted on a government-to-government basis by the FCC through the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC), which is led by the NTIA.

The Federal Communications Commission’s Frequency Assignment Sub-committee (FAS) representative submits applications for non-federal use of spectrum in bands that might affect other agencies. The NTIA Office of Spectrum Management (OSM) Spectrum Services Division (SSD) receives applications from agencies for inter-agency coordination. The OSM and NTIA maintain the government master file (GMF), which is a frequency listing of approved government systems.

Specifically, the FCC’s Space Bureau sends the draft application grant to the NTIA and other FCC Bureaus and Offices for their review and comment.  This generally takes 30 days, unless pre-coordination was not conducted or the application requests non-conforming operations such as a frequency band without service rules, or reverse band operations. If the necessary pre-coordination is not completed, the federal coordination process can exceed 90 days. The applications received by the Commission are sent through an automated process for completeness and accuracy. If applications are flagged for incompleteness or any discrepancies, they will be returned to the applicant on file. If the application is complete, it will be processed, stored, and a notification will be sent to the applicant. The stored content is then reviewed by FAS members for consideration.

Federal coordination may also be required with other bureaus/offices at the Commission.  This inter-agency and inter-bureau coordination may affect the timing of Commission action on those applications.

Friday, April 5, 2024