The National Academies

NCHRP 23-28 [Anticipated]

Changes to 4.9 Ghz Spectrum Access and Authorization – What You Need to Know

  Project Data
Funds: $250,000
Staff Responsibility: Ann M. Hartell
Fiscal Year: 2022

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected in January 2022. The project statement will be available on this site. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

The 4.9 GHz spectrum was originally designated for public safety use in 2002, with minimal cost-free frequency coordination provided to regional planning committees. The DOTs currently use this short range, broadband 4.9 GHz broadband spectrum for various applications, including; but not limited to, ITS video transport, and connected and automated vehicle (CAV) implementation. The 4.9 GHz Spectrum is a platform for providing real-time information to our traveling public, public safety entities through video streams that would be cost-prohibitive using other broadband technologies or contiguous radio spectrum not specifically set aside by the FCC for this purpose. This spectrum is ideally suited for point-to-point broadband microwave paths with a usable operations range of approximately 15-miles but can be also operated in point-to-multipoint configuration that makes it ideal for last mile communications connectivity for facilities and intelligent transportation system (ITS) devices. In the future, with the advancement of Advanced Air Mobility in the Transportation sector, 4.9 GHz may play a vital safety role with detect and avoid, as well as command and control for the National Air Space (NAS).

In May 2020 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted by rule expanding the shared use of 4.9 GHz (4940-4990 MHz) radio spectrum to commercial applications. Newly adopted rule(s) require each State to assign one (1) designated “State Band Manager” (State Lessor) sole statewide license holder to coordinate operations among grandfathered public safety licensees and would-be 4.9 GHz lessees. The State Band Manager will have the sole authority to lease the Spectrum within their State’s jurisdiction. Although the FCC has recently issued a “Stay” order (WP Docket No. 07-100, dated May 27, 2021) for its proposed rule change, the stay order may be lifted at any time.

The adopted rule change and stay affects all state DOTs who are incumbent licensees or are planning to acquire and utilize the 4.9 GHz spectrum. New and modified use of existing 4.9 GHz connected transportation networks is not allowed and future access and new authorizations is uncertain. Further, state DOTs must be prepared to engage in the processes of selecting a State Band Manager and leasing of the spectrum.

The objective of this research is to provide guidance to states regarding all aspects of the state band manager’s responsibilities and operations—especially as they relate to public safety and the role of state DOTs.The research should address the following questions:
  • How should states select and assign a State Band Manager?
  • Who in the State has the authority to select or assign the State Band Manager?
  • How do we ensure that the State Band Manager selected has the DOT’s best interest?
  • As the proposed rule change indicates leasing of the Spectrum, how should spectrum lease costs be determined? What should be the terms and conditions of the lease? What becomes of those funds? Are Federal and State telecommunications taxes also involved? How should DOTs plan for this additional cost?
  • What/How should the DOTs plan should the proposed rules be adopted?
  • How and to what entities should potential lease revenue be allocated to—preferably to fund public safety benefit, including the state DOTs.

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