Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) is the term the FCC uses for radiocommunication services licensed in the bands listed above under Part 27 of the FCC’s rules. The services provided by AWS licensees are limited only by the Fixed and Mobile allocations of the spectrum designated for AWS and the services rules that the Commission adopts for the bands to address interference matters.
The Commission has designated several different AWS spectrum bands over the years. The following contains a general description of the individual AWS bands that primarily summarizes actions the Commission has taken to establish rules to license these bands. The descriptions below contain links to FCC releases with more detailed information about each band, including historical information.
AWS-1: In 2002, the FCC released an Order that allocated 90 MHz of spectrum for AWS in the 1710-1755 and 2110-2155 MHz spectrum range. These spectrum bands are known as AWS-1. In 2002, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that sought comment on service rules for AWS. In 2003, the FCC released an Order that established rules to license AWS in the 1710-1755 and 2110-2155 MHz spectrum range. In 2005 the FCC released an Order on Reconsideration that modified some of the rules.
AWS H-Block at 1915-1920 MHz/1995-2000 MHz: In 2012, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to develop rules for the H Block, as part of an effort to implement the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Spectrum Act). In June 2013, the FCC released a Report and Order containing licensing, operating, technical, and competitive bidding rules for the H Block.
AWS-3: Following a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in July 2013, the Commission adopted a Report and Order in March 2014 as part of an effort to implement the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Spectrum Act) with allocation, technical, and licensing rules for commercial use of the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHz bands. These spectrum bands are collectively known as AWS-3. The AWS-3 Report and Order required that commercial operators successfully coordinate with Federal incumbents before operating in certain Protection Zones. In July 2014, the FCC and NTIA issued a Joint Public Notice Announcing AWS-3 Coordination Details, which refined the default nationwide coordination zones and provided additional information regarding coordination between Federal and non-Federal commercial shared use of the 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1780 MHz bands. NTIA provides information on Federal transition plans and transition data for the AWS-3 bands.
AWS-4: In 2012, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposed to apply AWS service rules for the 2000-2020 and 2180-2200 MHz bands, which are also allocated and authorized for Mobile Satellite Service (MSS). Later the same year, the FCC released a Report and Order and Order of Proposed Modification adopting flexible use service rules for terrestrial, mobile use of those bands. The terrestrial service is known as AWS-4. In February 2013, the Commission issued an Order of Modification to modify the licenses of the incumbent MSS licensees in that spectrum to add AWS-4 terrestrial operating authority. In December 2013, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting a petition for waiver of certain rules in the 2000-2020 MHz band, subject to certain conditions, to provide the AWS-4 licensees a one-time, irrevocable option to use the 2000-2020 MHz band for downlink operations, which both licensees elected to do. In August 2018, the FCC issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order dismissing an Application for Review of the Bureau’s waiver grants. In February 2020, the D.C. Circuit vacated this dismissal and remanded for the FCC to consider the challenges to the waiver orders on the merits. NTCH, Inc. v. FCC
The rules governing the AWS bands are generally found in 47 CFR Part 1 and Part 27.
Market Areas and Channel Blocks
AWS licenses are issued by FCC market areas and channel blocks.
FCC market areas consist of one or more counties. The market areas for AWS licenses are:
- Cellular Market Area (CMA) – There are 734 CMAs
- Economic Area (EA) – There are 176 EAs
- Regional Economic Area Grouping (REAG) – There are 12 REAGs
Channel blocks are groups of frequencies. For the specific channel blocks associated with a particular AWS band, please see § 27.5(h),(j),(k) (Frequencies) and § 27.6(h),(i),(j),(k) (Service areas).
The FCC typically uses an auctions process, absent a need to do otherwise, to assign initial licenses for AWS from among mutually exclusive applications. Access to AWS spectrum may also be attained through the secondary market, which generally allows AWS licensees to transfer, sell or lease spectrum, in whole or in part.
To date, licenses have been issued for the AWS-1, H Block, AWS-3 and AWS-4 spectrum bands. You can find information about AWS licenses in the Universal Licensing System (ULS). The ULS radio service codes and frequecies as located on the about tab.