FCC final rule details U.S.-Mexico spectrum sharing

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Final rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission April 1 delineate spectrum ownership along the U.S.-Mexico border. The rules, part of a larger FCC report (.pdf) outlining spectrum-sharing implementation, follow the June 2012 signing of two protocols with Mexico.

The first of the two protocols enabled sharing spectrum in the 800 megahertz and 1.9 gigahertz bands along the U.S.-Mexico border, in an effort to support public safety voice communications along the southern border. The two countries also signed in June a "joint statement" expressing support for "coordination of spectrum along the border and cooperation on telecommunications policy issues."

With the April 1 report and order, the commission adopts a reconfigured channel plan, which incorporates comments from a public inquiry. The commission also establishes a 30-month transition period for licensees to complete rebranding, according to the document.

The FCC order finalizes technical parameters for operation in the "sharing zone"--the 806-824 and 851–869 MHz band within 68 miles of the shared border. The United States will have primary access to channels 1-360, Mexico will have primary access to 361-610 and the countries will have "co-primary" access to channels 611-830.

"U.S. and Mexican licensees may operate on channels in the other country's primary spectrum provided they do not exceed the specified maximum signal strength at any point at or beyond the border," says the report.

The rule specifies effective radiated power and antenna height limits for stations authorized on U.S. primary channels in the sharing zone, as well as maximum power flux density requirements of stations primary to Mexico or those on co-primary channels.

According to the rule, channels 231-315--all of which fall within U.S. primary access--will be reserved for public safety licensing. High density cellular systems operating in the 800 MHz band are prohibited on these channels, says the rule.

The report directs licensees in the shared zone to begin the rebanding process on May 31, 2013, but also acknowledges implementation will be complicated. The FCC says "licensees such as the City of San Diego and the Border Area Licensees that operate complex systems may seek an extension of planning time from the Bureau if the need arises and good cause is shown."

While the goal is a 30-month transition period, FCC plans to evaluate rebanding progress at the eighteenth-month mark to assess whether or not challenges are being addressed or if "additional time is needed based upon circumstances beyond licensees' control," says the report.

For more:
- download the spectrum sharing report, WT Docket 02-55 (.pdf)

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