The 2.5 GHz band, which is divided into the Broadband Radio Service (BRS) and the Educational Broadband Service (EBS), is available for commercial service. The band is currently used to provide high-speed, high-capacity broadband service, including two-way Internet service via cellularized communication systems. Such services provide consumers integrated access to voice, high-speed data, video-on-demand, and interactive delivery services from a wireless device.
Tribal Priority Window
The 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window was a unique opportunity for Tribes in rural areas to directly access unassigned spectrum over their Tribal lands. The 2.5 GHz band can play an important role in the deployment of broadband and other advanced communications services over rural Tribal lands. The Rural Tribal Priority Window opened Monday, February 3, 2020, and closed on Wednesday, September 2, 2020 at 6 PM EDT.
For more information on the Rural Tribal Priority Window, visit https://www.fcc.gov/25-ghz-rural-tribal-window.
On July 11, 2019, the Commission released a Report and Order, FCC 19-62 (pdf), in which it modernized the outdated regulatory framework for the 2.5 GHz band to make this swath of vital mid-band spectrum available for advanced wireless services, including 5G. The Report and Order gives incumbent entities more flexibility in how they use this spectrum and provides opportunities for other entities, including Tribal Nations, to access unused spectrum in this band. The Order eliminated restrictions on the types of entities that can hold licenses as well as educational use requirements, while preserving incumbent licensees’ private contractual arrangements and provisions in existing leases. Further, the Order removed limitations on leases entered into on a going-forward basis under the Commission’s secondary markets rules, which will create incentives to build out in rural areas. Additionally, the Order established a priority filing window for rural Tribal Nations to provide them with an opportunity to obtain unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum to address the communications needs of their communities. The remaining unassigned spectrum will be available for commercial use via competitive bidding following the completion of the Tribal priority filing window. To maximize participation by small wireless service providers, the Order adopted county-sized overlay licenses, a three-part band plan (2 roughly 50 megahertz blocks and a 17.5 megahertz block), and adopts small business, rural service provider, and Tribal lands bidding credits. The Order also adopted robust buildout requirements to ensure that the spectrum is used to provide service.
Much of this spectrum, which is prime for next generation wireless broadband operations, has been underutilized for many years. This rulemaking was another step toward closing the digital divide, particularly in rural areas, including rural Tribal areas, that lack reliable wireless broadband services. It was also an important step in advancing United States leadership in 5G and implementing the FCC’s 5G FAST plan.
Band Plan Transition
The transition process for moving EBS licensees and BRS licensees from previous channel locations to their new spectrum blocks in the Lower Band Segment (LBS), Middle Band Segment (MBS), or Upper Band Segment (UBS) is complete, except in those markets where Multichannel Video Programming Distributors have received a waiver to “opt out” of the band plan transition.
Under the new rules, licensees have the flexibility to use the technology of their choice for a wide variety of purposes.
ULS License and Application Search Spectrum, geographic/market, and licensee/applicant data can be obtained using the
Universal Licensing System (ULS) search capabilities. ULS allows you to perform searches based on numerous criteria, including licensee/applicant name, call sign, radio service code, market area, channel block, FCC Registration Number (FRN), license or application status, and auction identification.
ULS Database & Daily Transactions The Universal Licensing System (ULS) database downloads for specific wireless radio services are available as zip files and are updated weekly. To stay abreast of the daily changes to the databases, you may also download daily transaction files.
Ownership Search Ownership Search provides access to Ownership Disclosure Information that has been filed within the Universal Licensing System (ULS). You can search by filer information, such as licensee name, or by filing dates.
General Menu Reports Search General Menu Reports System is an alternative method which can be used for searching the ULS database for application and license information.
Electronic Document Management System (EDOCS) Search a database of Daily Digest entries for FCC documents posted to the FCC web site since March 1996.
Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) Research any document in the Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) including non-electronic documents that have been scanned into the system from 1992 onward.
The BRS/EBS R&O & FNPRM created a new band plan for 2495-2690 MHz. The new band plan eliminated the use of interleaved channels by MDS and ITFS licensees and created distinct band segments for high power operations, such as one-way video transmission, and low power operations, such as two-way fixed and mobile broadband applications. By grouping high and low power users into separate portions of the band, the new band plan reduces the likelihood of interference caused by incompatible uses and creates incentives for the development of low-power, cellularized broadband operations, which were inhibited by the prior band plan.
The BRS/EBS R&O & FNPRM also expanded the original MDS-ITFS band by adding to it five megahertz of additional spectrum from below 2500 MHz, which increased the total size of the band to 194 megahertz. This provided room for the relocation of the previous MDS Channels 1 and 2 allocations, which were previously located in the 2.1 GHz band. The current band plan enables BRS and EBS providers to use the 2495-2690 MHz spectrum in a more technologically and economically efficient manner. The current, more flexible rules facilitate the growth of new and innovative wireless technologies and services, including wireless broadband services that have the potential to compete with cable and DSL broadband providers and to extend broadband service to rural and underserved areas. The rules also preserved operations of legacy licensees, including educational institutions offering instructional television programming to their students. The new band plan includes a 1 MHz guard band at 2495-2496 MHz.
Geographic licenses are listed on ULS under the radio service code BR for Broadband Radio Service licenses and ED for Educational Broadband Radio Service licenses. There are four types of Geographic Service Areas (GSA) in ULS for BRS and EBS services:
- The GSA of a P35 license (which can be either BRS or EBS) generally consists of the station’s 35-mile radius around the protected service area coordinates. In those instances where two co-channel stations have overlapping protected GSAs, the GSA of each license may be reduced due to the “splitting the football” approach used to divide the overlap area between the licensees (see Section 27.1206). ULS does not reflect any GSA modifications that are based on service area overlap.
- The GSA of a BRS Basic Trading Area (BTA) license consists of those portions of the BTA that are not occupied by the GSA’s of other BRS stations. In ULS, the GSA of a BTA license does not indicate what, if any, portions of the BTA are occupied by the GSA’s of other BRS stations.
- For EBS licenses issued in the Tribal Priority Window, the GSA consists of the rural Tribal Land (as defined in Section 27.1204(b)(3)) specified in the application.
- For all other new initial EBS licenses issued after April 27, 2020, the GSA is the county for which the license is issued, subject to the exclusion of overlapping, co-channel incumbent GSAs.
Applicants are required to file their applications electronically via ULS except that applications for Special Temporary Authority, applications and notifications of sublease arrangements, and notifications of private commons arrangements must be filed manually. Any applications filed manually, other than the three exceptions above, will be dismissed. The following ULS forms apply to BRS and EBS for all purposes:
- FCC Form 601, Application for Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Radio Service
- FCC Form 602, FCC Ownership Disclosure Information for the Wireless Telecommunications
- FCC Form 603, FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Application for Assignments of Authorization and Transfers of Control
- FCC Form 608, FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Application or Notification for Spectrum Leasing Arrangement or Private Commons Arrangements.
Applications for Special Temporary Authority must be filed manually using the most current version of FCC Form 601. Applications and Notifications for sublease arrangements and notifications of private commons agreements must be filed manually using the most current version of FCC Form 608.
EBS licensees are permitted to lease their excess capacity spectrum, subject to the rules adopted in the Secondary Markets Report and Order. In the Secondary Markets Report and Order, the Commission took important first steps to facilitate significantly broader access to valuable spectrum resources by enabling a wide array of facilities-based providers of broadband and other communications services to enter into spectrum leasing arrangements with Wireless Radio Service licensees. These flexible policies continue our evolution toward greater reliance on the marketplace to expand the scope of available wireless services and devices, leading to more efficient and dynamic use of the important spectrum resource to the ultimate benefit of consumers throughout the country. Our Secondary Market rules limit spectrum leasing arrangements to the length of the license term. However, EBS leases entered into under our pre-existing ITFS leasing framework have been grandfathered and may remain in effect for up to fifteen years, so long as such leases are not materially changed.
Geographic Service Area
Licensee’s operate under the authority of a geographic service area (GSA) authorization. For EBS and incumbent site-based BRS authorizations, the geographic service area generally consists of the station's 35-mile protected service area (PSA). In those instances where two stations have overlapping PSAs, the rules use a "splitting a football" approach to divide the overlap area between the licensees. For BRS BTA authorization holders, the geographic service area consists of those portions of the BTA not occupied by the GSAs of other stations. Licensees may, in most cases, modify their facilities, consistent with the new technical rules, without prior Commission approval. With geographic area licensing, licensees may also add additional facilities within their GSA without prior Commission approval, so long as the facilities comply with the technical rules.
Licensees must file applications and be granted specific licenses for individual facilities within their GSAs if: (1) international agreements require coordination; (2) submission of an environmental assessment is required; or (3) the station would affect the radio quiet zones.