Posted by: Joan Marsh on April 11, 2016 at 11:44 am
We’ve been watching with interest as a Further Order on the 3.5 GHz band plan is being considered by the FCC’s 8th floor. The Order proposes to preserve a Priority Access License, or PALs, scheme that has been broadly rejected by almost everyone who had advocated for the PALs approach. Given this opposition, it’s hard to see why the Commission remains committed to it. “If you build it they will come” may be a slogan that works with magical baseball fields, but it’s not going to be an effective approach here.
It’s not hard to see why wireless operators are unenthusiastic.
First, it’s far from certain that a bidder will be able to obtain a rational PALs footprint at auction. The Commission has concluded that, to ensure auction competition, it will require multiple bidders in each license area and auction one less PAL than the total number of PALs applied for in a given census tract. This means that if only one carrier is interested in PALs in a given license area, zero PALs will be available. Would-be PAL licensees could therefore simply find themselves locked out from the start in many license areas. And, as many commentators have pointed out, the N-1 requirement will effectively act to reduce the number of PALs available over time, systematically phasing out PALs with each subsequent auction. This alone is probably sufficient to discourage meaningful interest.