[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 19 (Friday, January 29, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 4969-4975]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-01282]


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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Parts 15, 27, 73, and 74

[GN Docket No. 12-268, FCC 15-140]


Expanding the Economic and Innovation Opportunities of Spectrum 
Through Incentive Auctions

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: In this document, the Federal Communications Commission 
(``Commission'' or ``FCC'') defines when and in what areas 600 MHz Band 
wireless licensees will be deemed to ``commence operations'' for the 
purpose of establishing when secondary and unlicensed users must cease 
operations and vacate the 600 MHz Band.

DATES: The rules will become effective February 29, 2016, except for 
Sec. Sec.  15.713(b)(2)(iv), 15.713(j)(10) introductory text, 
15.715(n), and 73.3700(g)(4)(i), (g)(4)(ii)(B), (g)(4)(iii), and 
(g)(4)(v), which contain new or modified information collection 
requirements that require approval by the Office of Management and 
Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The Commission will publish a 
document in the Federal Register announcing the effective date for 
those rules.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul Malmud of the Wireless 
Telecommunications Bureau, Broadband Division, at 202-418-0006 or 
paul.malmud@fcc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of Expanding the Economic 
and Innovation Opportunities of Spectrum Through Incentive Auctions, GN 
Docket No. 12-268, FCC 15-140, adopted October 21, 2015 (``Commencing 
Operations R&O''). Sec. Sec.  15.713(b)(2)(iv), 15.713(j)(10) 
introductory text, 15.715(n), and 73.3700(g)(4)(i), (g)(4)(ii)(B), 
(g)(4)(iii), and (g)(4)(v) of the rules contain previously adopted new 
or modified information collection requirements that the Commission 
previously stated would require approval by the Office of Management 
and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act. 79 FR 48539 (Aug. 15, 
2014); and 80 FR 73070 (Nov. 23, 2015). The Commission will publish a 
notice in the Federal Register announcing the effective date for these 
rules, which will be different than the notice for the other adopted 
rules. The complete text of this document is available for public 
inspection and copying from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) 
Monday through Thursday or from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. ET on Fridays 
in the FCC Reference Information Center, 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-
A257, Washington, DC 200554. It is also available on the Commission's 
Web site at http://wireless.fcc.gov, or by using the search function on 
the ECFS Web page at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/. To request materials 
in accessible formats for people with disabilities (Braille, large 
print, electronic files, audio format), send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov 
or telephone the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-
0530 (voice), (202) 18-0432 (TTY).

Supplemental Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, as amended 
(``RFA''), an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (``IRFA'') was 
incorporated in the Expanding the Economic and Innovation Opportunities 
of Spectrum Through Incentive Auctions 77 FR 69934, Nov. 21, 2012 
(``Incentive Auction NPRM''). The Commission sought written public 
comment on the proposals in the Incentive Auction NPRM, including 
comment on the IRFA. The Commission subsequently incorporated a Final 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (``FRFA'') in Expanding the Economic 
and Innovation Opportunities of Spectrum Through Incentive Auctions 79 
FR 48442, (Aug. 15, 2014) (``Incentive Auction R&O'').This Supplemental 
FRFA conforms to the RFA and incorporates by reference the FRFA in the 
Incentive Auction R&O. It reflects changes to the Commission's rules 
arising from defining ``commence operations'' in this Commencing 
Operations R&O.

Report to Small Business Administration

    The Commission will send a copy of this Commencing Operations R&O, 
including this Supplemental FRFA, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of 
the Small Business Administration.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This document does not contain new or modified information 
collection requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 
(PRA), Public Law 104-13.

Congressional Review Act

    The Commission will send a copy of the Commencing Operations R&O, 
including this Supplemental FRFA, in a report to be sent to Congress 
and the Government Accountability Office pursuant to the Congressional 
Review Act. A copy of the Commencing Operations R&O and Supplemental 
FRFA (or summaries thereof) will also be published in the Federal 
Register.

I. Introduction

    1. In the Incentive Auction R&O, the Commission adopted transition 
rules that permit low power television and TV translator (``LPTV'') 
stations, fixed broadcast auxiliary service operations (``BAS''), and 
unlicensed white space devices (hereinafter, collectively, ``secondary 
and unlicensed users'') to continue operating in the 600 MHz Band, 
under specified conditions, after the spectrum has been licensed to new 
600 MHz Band wireless licensees. The secondary and unlicensed users 
must vacate the band once the wireless licensee ``commences 
operations'' in its licensed 600 MHz spectrum, or on a date certain.\1\ 
In this Commencing Operations R&O, the Commission defines when and in 
what areas 600 MHz Band wireless licensees will be deemed to ``commence 
operations'' for the purpose of establishing when the secondary and 
unlicensed users must cease operations and vacate the 600 MHz Band in 
those areas. Specifically,

[[Page 4970]]

as discussed below, the Commencing Operations R&O establishes that a 
600 MHz Band wireless licensee commences operations when it conducts 
site commissioning tests. The Commencing Operations R&O also creates a 
limited exception to this rule to permit 600 MHz Band wireless 
licensees to conduct first field application testing in advance of site 
commissioning tests under certain circumstances.
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    \1\ See Incentive Auction R&O. This Commencing Operations R&O 
only addresses the requirements relating to secondary and unlicensed 
users vacating the 600 MHz Band where 600 MHz Band wireless 
licensees commence operations. Secondary and unlicensed users also 
may be required to vacate portions of the 600 MHz Band to the extent 
the auction system assigns a television station to a channel in the 
600 MHz Band. See Broadcast Incentive Auction Scheduled to Begin 
March 29, 2016; Procedures for Competitive Bidding in Auction 1000, 
Including Initial Clearing Target Determination, Qualifying to Bid, 
and Bidding in Auctions 1001 (Reverse) and 1002 (Forward), 80 FR 
61918, Oct. 14, 2014.
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II. Discussion

    2. Based on our review of the record and as explained below in 
greater detail, the Commission determines that a 600 MHz Band wireless 
licensee ``commences operations'' when it conducts site commissioning 
tests. In this context, the term is defined to include site activation 
and commissioning tests using permanent base station equipment, 
antennas and/or tower locations as part of its site and system 
optimization in the area of its planned commercial service 
infrastructure deployment. It is at this juncture that a wireless 
licensee moves from construction to testing its system, and needs 
unfettered access to its licensed spectrum to optimize its network in 
advance of launching commercial service to customers. In addition, the 
Commencing Operations R&O adopts the proposal that a licensee's 
notification of commencement will cover the area served by its 
commercial service infrastructure deployment. It also creates a limited 
exception to these rules to permit 600 MHz Band wireless licensees to 
conduct first field application testing in advance of site 
commissioning testing, under certain circumstances. The Commission's 
decision balances the policy goal of providing an orderly transition 
process for secondary and unlicensed users in the band with that of 
providing 600 MHz Band wireless licensees with exclusive access to 
their spectrum as soon as they are ready to deploy wireless service in 
the band.

A. Defining the Timing of Commencing Operations

    3. Many months of preparatory work go into planning and deploying a 
wireless broadband system. As noted by wireless industry commenters, 
they must engage in extensive construction and testing of equipment and 
service before licensees can launch commercial service in a particular 
market. When a wireless licensee establishes permanent base stations, 
with permanent antennas, and/or tower locations, the licensee will need 
access to its licensed spectrum to perform site activation and 
commissioning tests to ensure that the base station performs as 
expected. The licensee must analyze multiple factors, including but not 
limited to signal generation, power measurement, frequency error, 
unwanted emissions, occupied bandwidth, adjacent-channel leakage, and 
spurious emissions as part of this testing. In sum, the start of the 
site commissioning testing phase requires the use of licensed 
frequencies for committed sites in anticipation of bringing up a 
wireless broadband system in an area. Therefore, a 600 MHz Band 
wireless licensee ``commences operations'' when it begins its site 
commissioning tests.
    4. As many commenters point out, choosing site commissioning 
testing as the benchmark for defining commencement of operations 
provides a relevant and sustainable sign that 600 MHz Band wireless 
licensees are committed to deploying service in a particular area and 
will begin providing commercial service in the immediate term. 
Furthermore, it will minimize, to the extent possible, the time between 
cessation of secondary and unlicensed use and initiation of commercial 
wireless service. This takes the interests of secondary and unlicensed 
users into account but still provides uncompromised access to the 600 
MHz Band by wireless licensees when they need it. Accordingly, the 
proposed definition of ``commencing operations'' appropriately balances 
the competing interests that must be considered in transitioning the 
600 MHz Band to wireless use.
    5. The Commission declines to adopt AT&T, CTIA, and the Competitive 
Carriers Association's (``CCA'') proposal to define commencement of 
operations in the 600 MHz Band to include the early stages of pre-
deployment. These commenters propose that secondary and unlicensed 
users should clear the 600 MHz Band as early as the initial 
transmission of a radio frequency (``RF'') signal by a wireless 
licensee under its 600 MHz Band license. In support, CTIA and CCA argue 
that early pre-deployment testing of equipment and services would be 
best run in actual operating conditions (i.e., without the presence of 
secondary users) on the wireless carrier's licensed frequencies. CTIA 
also opines that if licensees must commit to permanent base station 
equipment and permanent antenna locations as a prerequisite to 
commencing operations, carriers will be required to make critical 
investments before they are able to ascertain their needs. CTIA argues 
that the unique deployment challenges (such as the presence of 
broadcast television stations in some areas) for wireless licensees in 
the 600 MHz Band also justify removal of secondary and unlicensed 
signals from a licensed area as quickly as possible.
    6. Permitting wireless carriers to displace incumbent secondary and 
unlicensed users at the first RF transmission or in the earliest stages 
of pre-deployment would be inconsistent with the balancing of interests 
that was established as part of the transition plan for the 600 MHz 
Band. The Commission agrees that 600 MHz Band wireless licensees 
require actual fully modulated waveforms at full operational power, on 
their specific licensed frequencies, when they are ready to test 
specific functionality (such as handover and out of band emissions), 
adjust site coverage, and minimize interference between sites. This 
requirement is the basis for our definition of commence operations. 
Other tests that occur earlier in the deployment process, however, such 
as drive testing for site evaluation and propagation model calibration, 
typically do not require use of the licensee's specific licensed 
frequencies to produce accurate results. For example, if an LPTV 
station is located within an anticipated coverage area, a 600 MHz Band 
wireless licensee can perform these early pre-deployment tests on 
adjacent or nearby channels, or possibly using narrowband signals on 
the channel edge, without receiving interference.
    7. The Commission also declines to adopt the proposals of the 
Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (``WISPA'') and 
Sennheiser Electric Corp. (``Sennheiser'') that commencement of 
operations should be tied to the actual start of commercial service to 
the public. According to WISPA, service to the public undergirds any 
justification for exclusivity and freedom from interference. Defining 
commencement of operations to mean actual launch of commercial service 
by the 600 MHz Band wireless licensee, however, would ignore the scope 
and nature of testing necessary to bring a complex network of sites 
into synchronized operation to provide seamless communications that 
meet users' commercial service quality expectations. As discussed 
above, once a 600 MHz Band wireless licensee has begun construction of 
permanent base stations in an area, the licensee needs access to its 
particular licensed frequencies to accurately assess the performance of 
these base stations and associated user equipment in an environment 
free from interference. As CCA describes, providers must conduct 
multiple facility tests before starting

[[Page 4971]]

operations, which must be repeated to ensure error- and interference 
free deployment. These tests are necessary for the licensee to resolve 
all technical issues prior to the licensed spectrum being used for 
commercial service. Given that such testing is essential to the 
provision of commercial quality service, tying commencement of 
operations to actual launch of commercial service, as suggested by 
WISPA and Sennheiser, would undermine the needs of the 600 MHz Band 
licensees and could potentially hinder delivery of service to the 
public.
    8. AT&T and CTIA also argue that the Spectrum Act precludes 
allowing secondary and unlicensed users to operate in the licensed 600 
MHz Band after the spectrum is reallocated for wireless services. The 
Commission is not persuaded by these arguments. As explained in the 
Incentive Auction R&O, the Spectrum Act reinforces the Commission's 
established spectrum management authority, under which it was decided 
to allow secondary and unlicensed use of the 600 MHz Band by LPTV 
stations, BAS, and white space devices on a non-interfering basis for 
set periods of time, ending with the post-auction transition period or 
when 600 MHz Band wireless licensees provide the requisite notice that 
they intend to commence operations in areas of their geographic 
licenses where there is a likelihood of receiving harmful interference. 
Our decision here merely finalizes the process for determining when 
secondary and unlicensed users need to vacate the 600 MHz Band in areas 
where a 600 MHz Band wireless licensee needs the spectrum. Nothing in 
the transition framework that was adopted in the Incentive Auction R&O, 
or the decisions reached in this Commencing Operations R&O is 
inconsistent with the Spectrum Act.

B. Area Served Under Commencing Operations Definition

    9. The Commission adopts the proposal that a licensee's 
notification of commencement of operations covers the area served by 
its planned commercial service infrastructure deployment. The 
licensee's commercial service deployment area is determined by the 
specific locations of the base stations it will construct to provide 
contiguous coverage to its customers in the area; the outermost base 
station sites form the boundary of the area. Each site included within 
this boundary must be capable of handing over mobile traffic to at 
least one other site within the boundary on the same licensed 
frequency. Many commenters support defining the area covered by a 
licensee's notification of commencement in a way that allows secondary 
and unlicensed users access to spectrum that might otherwise lay fallow 
until wireless operations begin in all geographic areas under a license 
rather than just in certain areas.
    10. We decline to adopt the proposals of AT&T, CCA, and CTIA that 
would require secondary and unlicensed users to vacate the entire 
Partial Economic Area (``PEA'') when a 600 MHz Band wireless licensee 
commences operations in just one particular portion of a PEA. These 
commenters argue that granting licensees access to the entire PEA will 
free them of the burden of continually having to update data on the 
scope of their deployment merely to obtain interference protection over 
a changing deployment area. The Commission is not persuaded that this 
decision herein will impose an undue burden on 600 MHz Band wireless 
licensees. While a 600 MHz Band wireless licensee may need to provide 
notice for new areas, the rules will permit these licensees to plan 
for, and roll out service to, large or small areas of deployment, as 
they see fit, based on their business plans and needs, rather than 
predefined geographic boundaries. Although allowing 600 MHz Band 
wireless licensees exclusive access to their entire licensed area upon 
their first RF transmission might be less burdensome, it could result 
in the spectrum lying fallow for a longer period of time than is 
necessary. Instead, this decision maintains the balance struck in the 
Incentive Auction R&O to promote access to the 600 MHz Band for 
wireless licensees when and where they need it while providing an 
orderly transition process for secondary and unlicensed users that 
currently are serving consumer needs.
    11. Further, while a license issued for the 600 MHz Band does 
include the right to exclusive use, it does not include the immediate 
right to exclude for the entire license area. 600 MHz Band wireless 
licensees will have all of the rights and obligations conferred by the 
Commission's Incentive Auction R&O, including the right to exclusive 
use in areas where the licensee commences operations and provides the 
requisite notification to secondary and unlicensed users prescribed by 
the transition procedures adopted therein. Until the licensee commences 
operations in areas of their geographic licenses where there is a 
likelihood of receiving harmful interference, secondary and unlicensed 
users retain their right to operate in the 600 MHz Band. The approach 
regarding the area to be covered by a 600 MHz Band wireless licensee's 
notification is consistent with the Commission's prior spectrum 
management decisions, and its other decisions regarding the transition 
process in the Incentive Auction R&O.

C. First Field Application Testing

    12. Although the wireless industry generally opposed the 
Commission's proposed definition of commencement of operations, it has, 
through CTIA, suggested ``a compromise'' that would modify this 
definition to include ``market testing'' in addition to site 
commissioning testing. CTIA describes market testing as a phase prior 
to site commissioning in which the wireless licensee deploys prototype 
equipment in a limited number of markets to determine if the equipment 
actually performs as expected in the real-world (as compared to 
laboratory performance) and if the propagation models and software that 
have been developed accurately model the capabilities of the new 
radiofrequency equipment. CTIA states that this testing is conducted in 
a limited number of markets--typically . . . only a fraction of the 
areas where full commercial launch will occur--and typically within 
only a portion of the market area--a cluster or clusters of base 
station sites. More specifically, CTIA states that such testing usually 
involves two to six test areas, comprising from as little as 10 sites 
to 200-300 sites, covering generally no more than 1,000 square miles. 
CTIA asserts that if 600 MHz Band wireless licensees are not able to 
conduct market testing of new equipment, software, and possibly 
technology on their licensed frequencies without the presence of 
secondary and unlicensed users, deployment of mobile broadband services 
in the band will be delayed, which it argues would be contrary to 
Congress's paramount objective in granting the FCC authority to hold 
the incentive auction.
    13. Subsequently, AT&T responded to Commission staff inquiries 
about how it conducts what it terms first field application (``FFA'') 
testing. According to AT&T, FFA testing for a new spectrum band 
consists of three main areas of evaluation--network hardware, software, 
and devices [and] . . . incorporates as many different combinations of 
morphologies (rural, suburban and urban) and network configurations as 
practicable, to emulate the actual environments found in the network. 
AT&T further explains that base station hardware testing covers all 
possible combinations of baseband and radiohead configurations at a 
cluster of 20-30 sites to ensure the hardware is working as designed 
and is compatible with existing network facilities. Testing

[[Page 4972]]

how devices interoperate with hardware and software in the new band 
typically requires a cluster of 50-150 sites. Finally, AT&T states that 
software testing to ensure that new hardware and devices are fully 
operational requires the largest testing area, ``as many as 200-300 
sites, to cover as many possible combinations of morphology and 
hardware and software configurations'' as exist in a nationwide 
network. AT&T indicates that it performs FFA testing in areas that are 
among the first areas where it plans to deploy commercial service, and 
asserts FFA testing in 600 MHz will be critical because there has been 
no prior commercial wireless deployment in the band.
    14. As an initial matter, the terminology that the wireless 
industry uses to refer to this type of testing appears to vary from 
operator to operator. For convenience, AT&T's term--first field 
application--which conveys more precisely than other terms the nature 
and scope of this testing will be used. The FFA testing that CTIA and 
AT&T describe as being essential to timely deployment of 600 MHz Band 
wireless service would not fit squarely within the definition of 
``commencing operations'' in this Commencing Operations R&O, because 
FFA testing may involve equipment, antennas and locations that are not 
permanent. The Commission declines to revise our general definition of 
when a carrier will be deemed to ``commence operations'' as CTIA 
recently advocates. Nevertheless, it is in the public interest to 
permit 600 MHz Band wireless licensees to undertake FFA testing on 
their licensed frequencies in limited areas free from potential 
interference from secondary and unlicensed users, because such testing 
will speed deployment of the 600 MHz Band and accelerate the use of 
these frequencies by 600 MHz wireless licensees to provide service to 
consumers. The limited exception established for FFA testing will not 
upset the balance between promoting ready access to the 600 MHz Band 
for wireless licensees while providing an orderly transition process 
for secondary and unlicensed users.
    15. Therefore, the Commission is providing a limited exception to 
the rule defining commencement of operations, to permit 600 MHz Band 
licensees to conduct FFA testing on their licensed frequencies in 
advance of site activation and commissioning testing without the 
presence of secondary and unlicensed users. Based on information 
presented by AT&T and on FCC staff network engineering expertise, the 
Commission expects that FFA testing pursuant to this exception would be 
done in a small number of areas, with the parameters presented as 
typical by CTIA constituting the upper bound on what the Commission 
would consider reasonable. In most cases, FFA testing should require 
fewer test areas, fewer sites,\2\ and cover more restricted geographic 
areas. Further, the Commission expects that FFA testing would be done 
only in license areas where 600 MHz Band wireless licensees expect to 
rapidly deploy service to end users, and that this deployment will 
follow the FFA testing phase as soon as possible. In the areas in which 
a 600 MHz Band licensee intends to take advantage of this exception, it 
must notify secondary and unlicensed users of the need to vacate the 
spectrum by following the transition procedures adopted in the 
Incentive Auction R&O and the Amendment of Part 15 of the Commission's 
Rules for Unlicensed Operations in the Television Bands, Repurposed 600 
MHz Band, 600 MHz Guard Bands and Duplex Gap, and Channel 37 80 FR 
73043, (Nov. 23, 2015) (``Part 15 Report and Order''). In portions of 
the license area that do not contain sites involved in the licensee's 
FFA testing, secondary and unlicensed users will be allowed to continue 
operating until the close of the transition period or when the licensee 
notifies them of its intent to commence operations as defined in this 
Commencing Operations R&O.
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    \2\ In particular, it is our understanding that in many cases, 
FFA software testing, which CTIA and AT&T say typically involves 
200-300 sites, may take place without implicating radiofrequency 
transmissions. With respect to deployment of the 600 MHz Band, the 
Commission expects that 600 MHz Band wireless licensees conducting 
software testing in such situations would not notify secondary and 
unlicensed users to vacate the band for these tests.
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D. Other Issues

    16. We reject as untimely requests for reconsideration of several 
commenters to modify the transition procedures established in the 
Incentive Auction R&O.\3\ The Commission previously determined in the 
Incentive Auction R&O the circumstances under which secondary and 
unlicensed users may continue operating in the 600 MHz Band after the 
spectrum has been licensed for wireless services and set forth specific 
requirements for when those secondary and unlicensed users must vacate 
the band. In addition, the Commission adopted procedures that wireless 
licensees must use to notify secondary and unlicensed users that they 
are commencing operations. None of the aforementioned parties filed 
petitions for reconsideration of our decisions on the issues they now 
seek to have modified. The Commission rejects these requests as 
untimely petitions for reconsideration. With respect to CTIA's concern 
that competitively sensitive information provided to white spaces 
database administrators needs to be treated as confidential, this issue 
has already been addressed in the Part 15 Report and Order.
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    \3\ Specifically, AT&T argues that the Commission should require 
that all secondary and unlicensed users cease operations by the end 
of the 39-month Post-Auction Transition Period or at an earlier date 
if a licensee provides 120 days' notice that it intends to commence 
operations. Comments of AT&T at 3-4 (filed May 1, 2015). AT&T also 
requests an expedited enforcement mechanism to clear unlicensed or 
secondary users that fail to vacate the spectrum within the 
applicable timeframe. Id. at 10. CTIA asks that wireless licensees 
be granted control of the process for, and details of, notice of 
commencement of service. Comments of CTIA--The Wireless Association 
at 9 (filed May 1, 2015). CP Communications and Shure requested that 
licensed professional microphone users be treated like LPTV stations 
and allowed to continue operating indefinitely in the 600 MHz Band 
until they receive advance written notice that a 600 MHz Band 
licensee intends to commence operations and that the microphone user 
will cause interference to that wireless provider. Comments of CP 
Communications, LLC at 2 (filed May 1, 2015); Reply Comments of 
Shure Incorporated at 3 (filed May 18, 2015). Shure also asks that a 
wireless licensee be required to certify that it has begun site 
commissioning tests and that all power systems and backhaul 
connectivity are installed and operational. Reply Comments of Shure 
Incorporated at 7 (filed May 18, 2015). Finally, WISPA argues that a 
sixty day advance notification period should be provided to 
unlicensed users before they must vacate the 600 MHz Band. Comments 
of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association at 4 (filed 
May 1, 2015). See also Reply Comments of Open Technology Institute 
at New America and Public Knowledge at 19 (filed May 18, 2015) (``A 
substantial but not overly long notification period [of 30 days] 
benefits both licensees and unlicensed operators.'').
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    17. Finally, the Commission is redesignating Section 27.19 of the 
Commission's rules as Section 27.1321 and adding two undesignated 
center headings to Subpart N (600 MHz Band) of Part 27. Section 27.19 
applies only to 600 MHz Band licensees and therefore should be included 
in Subpart N, which is the general subtitle for the 600 MHz Band. The 
Commission is also adding the additional undesignated center headings 
to provide greater clarity to Subpart N. None of these rule changes 
require prior notice and opportunity for comment under the 
Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because Section 553(b)(3)(B) of the 
APA provides exceptions to the notice-and-comment requirement when, 
among other things, the agency finds for good cause that the notice and 
comment procedures are impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the 
public interest. These rule changes are non-substantive and

[[Page 4973]]

editorial in nature. As such, they constitute routine, ``clean-up'' 
matters that entail no substantive decisions of any consequence or 
significance to industry or the general public. Accordingly, it is 
unnecessary, within the meaning of Section 553(b)(3)(B), to provide 
notice and opportunity for comment before adopting these rule 
revisions. For the same reason, there is good cause to make these non-
substantive, editorial revisions of the rules.

III. Supplemental Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    18. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, as 
amended (``RFA''), an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis 
(``IRFA'') was incorporated in Expanding the Economic and Innovation 
Opportunities of Spectrum Through Incentive Auctions 77 FR 69934, Nov. 
21, 2012 (``Incentive Auction NPRM''). The Commission sought written 
public comment on the proposals in the Incentive Auction NPRM, 
including comment on the IRFA. The Commission subsequently incorporated 
a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (``FRFA'') in the Incentive 
Auction R&O. This Supplemental FRFA conforms to the RFA and 
incorporates by reference the FRFA in the Incentive Auction R&O. It 
reflects changes to the Commission's rules arising from defining 
``commence operations'' in this Commencing Operations R&O.

A. Need for, and Objectives of, the Order

    19. In the Incentive Auction R&O, the Commission adopted transition 
rules that permit low power television (``LPTV''), TV translator 
stations, fixed broadcast auxiliary service operations (``BAS''), and 
unlicensed white space devices (hereinafter, collectively, ``secondary 
and unlicensed users'') to continue operating in the 600 MHz Band after 
the spectrum has been licensed for wireless services (hereinafter ``600 
MHz Band''). Those secondary and unlicensed users must vacate once the 
wireless licensee ``commences operations'' in its licensed 600 MHz 
spectrum, or a date certain. Thereafter, the Commission issued the 
Comment Sought on Defining Commencement of Operations in the 600 MHz 
Band 80 FR 18185, (Apr. 3, 2014) (``Commencing Operations PN'') and 
sought comment on the appropriate definition of ``commence operations'' 
in light of the Commission's objective to accomplish an orderly 
transition of unlicensed and secondary users out of the 600 MHz Band. 
By this Commencing Operations R&O, the Commission defines when and in 
what areas 600 MHz Band wireless licensees will be deemed to ``commence 
operations'' for the purpose of establishing when those secondary and 
unlicensed operators must cease operations and vacate the 600 MHz Band.
    20. The Commencing Operations R&O affirms the Commission's 
commitment to implement a transition process that promotes ready access 
to the repurposed spectrum by 600 MHz Band wireless licensees when and 
where they need it, while at the same time providing for an orderly 
transition process for secondary and unlicensed users that currently 
are serving various important consumer needs. Specifically, in the 
Commencing Operations R&O, the Commission defines ``commence 
operations'' as when a 600 MHz Band licensee begins pre-launch site 
activation and commissioning tests using permanent base station 
equipment, antennas and/or tower locations as part of its site and 
system optimization in the area of its planned commercial service 
infrastructure deployment (hereinafter ``site commissioning tests''). 
It is at this juncture that a wireless licensee moves from construction 
to testing its system, and needs unfettered access to its licensed 
spectrum to optimize its network in advance of launching commercial 
service to customers. In addition, the Commission adopts the proposal 
that a licensee's notification of commencement will cover the area 
served by its commercial service infrastructure deployment. It also 
creates a limited exception to these rules to permit 600 MHz Band 
wireless licensees to conduct first field application testing in 
advance of site commissioning testing using their licensed frequencies 
in limited areas. Our decision balances the policy goal of providing an 
orderly transition process for secondary and unlicensed users in the 
band with that of providing 600 MHz Band wireless licensees with 
exclusive access to their spectrum as soon as they are ready deploy 
wireless service in the band.

B. Summary of Significant Issues Raised by Public Comments

    21. No commenters directly responded to the IRFA in the Incentive 
Auction NPRM. Nonetheless, the FRFA in the Incentive Auction R&O 
addressed concerns in the record about the impact on small businesses 
of various auction design issues. No commenters raised concerns 
regarding the impact on small businesses of the proposed definition of 
``commence operations'' in the Commencing Operations PN. Furthermore, 
the SBA Chief Counsel filed no comments in this matter.

C. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities To Which 
Rules Will Apply

    22. The RFA directs the Commission to provide a description of and, 
where feasible, an estimate of the number of small entities that will 
be affected by the adopted rules. The RFA generally defines the term 
``small entity'' as having the same meaning as the terms ``small 
business,'' small organization,'' and ``small government 
jurisdiction.'' In addition, the term ``small business'' has the same 
meaning as the term ``small business concern'' under the Small Business 
Act. A small business concern is one which: (1) Is independently owned 
and operated; (2) is not dominant in its field of operation; and (3) 
satisfies any additional criteria established by the SBA.
    23. As noted, the Commission incorporated a FRFA into the Incentive 
Auction R&O. In that analysis, the Commission described in detail the 
various small business entities that may be affected by the final 
rules, including wireless telecommunications carriers, manufacturers of 
unlicensed devices, and television broadcasting. This Commencing 
Operations R&O amends the final rules adopted in the Incentive Auction 
R&O affecting wireless telecommunications carriers, manufacturers of 
unlicensed devices, and television broadcasting. This Supplemental FRFA 
incorporates by reference the description and estimate of the number of 
small entities from the FRFA in the Incentive Auction R&O.

D. Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other 
Compliance Requirements for Small Entities

    24. In Section D of the FRFA, incorporated into the Incentive 
Auction R&O, the Commission described in detail the projected 
recordkeeping, reporting, and other compliance requirements for small 
entities arising from the rules adopted in the Incentive Auction R&O. 
This Supplemental FRFA incorporates by reference the requirements 
described in Section D of the FRFA. Moreover, in this Commencing 
Operations R&O, the Commission is not requiring any additional 
reporting, recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements for small 
entities other than those requirements that were already required by 
the Incentive Auction R&O.

[[Page 4974]]

E. Steps Taken To Minimize the Significant Economic Impact on Small 
Entities, and Significant Alternatives Considered

    25. The RFA requires an agency to describe any significant 
alternatives that it has considered in developing its approach, which 
may include the following four alternatives (among others): (1) The 
establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or 
timetables that take into account the resources available to small 
entities; (2) the clarification, consolidation, or simplification of 
compliance and reporting requirements under the rule for such small 
entities; (3) the use of performance rather than design standards; and 
(4) an exemption from coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for 
such small entities. The Commission has minimized the significant 
economic impact on small entities because no new reporting, 
recordkeeping, or other compliance requirements result from the 
Commencing Operations R&O. Rather, any such reporting, recordkeeping, 
or compliance requirements were adopted previously in the Incentive 
Auction R&O. Furthermore, alternative proposals in the record would 
have defined ``commence operations'' such that it would provide 
immediate access to the entire licensed area instead of just the area 
of planned commercial service infrastructure deployment. This proposal 
would have had a larger economic impact on secondary and unlicensed 
operations, many of which are small entities, because it would have 
required a greater number of such operations to vacate the 600 MHz Band 
sooner than is required under the definition of ``commence operations'' 
that is adopted in the Commencing Operations R&O. The Commission 
believes the definition of ``commence operations'' it has adopted 
strikes the appropriate balance by promoting ready access to the 
repurposed spectrum by 600 MHz Band wireless licensees when and where 
they need it, while at the same time providing for an orderly 
transition process for secondary and unlicensed users that currently 
are serving various important consumer needs.

F. Federal Rules That Might Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With the 
Rules

    26. None.

List of Subjects in 47 CFR Parts 15, 27, 73, and 74

    Communications equipment, Radio, Communications common carriers

    Federal Communications Commission.
Gloria J. Miles,
Federal Register Liaison, Office of the Secretary.

Final Rules

    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal 
Communications Commission amends 47 CFR parts 15, 27, 73, and 74 as 
follows:

PART 15--RADIO FREQUENCY DEVICES

0
1. The authority citation for part 15 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 302a, 303, 304, 307, 336, 544a, and 
549.


0
2. Section 15.236 is amended by revising paragraphs (c)(2) and (e)(2) 
to read as follows:


Sec.  15.236  Operation of wireless microphones in the bands 54-72 MHz, 
76-88 MHz, 174-216 MHz, 470-608 MHz and 614-698 MHz.

* * * * *
    (c) * * *
    (2) Frequencies in the 600 MHz service band on which a 600 MHz 
service licensee has not commenced operations, as defined in Sec.  27.4 
of this chapter. Operation on these frequencies must cease no later 
than the end of the post-auction transition period, as defined in Sec.  
27.4 of this chapter. Operation must cease immediately if harmful 
interference occurs to a 600 MHz service licensee.
* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (2) The following distances outside of the area where a 600 MHz 
service licensee has commenced operations, as defined in Sec.  27.4 of 
this chapter.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     Separation distance
                                                        in kilometers
                  Type of station                  ---------------------
                                                       Co-      Adjacent
                                                     channel    channel
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Base..............................................          7        0.2
Mobile............................................         35         31
------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *

0
3. Section 15.707 is amended by revising paragraph (a)(5) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  15.707  Permissible channels of operation.

    (a) * * *
    (5) 600 MHz service band. White space devices may operate on 
frequencies in the 600 MHz service band in areas where 600 MHz band 
licensees have not commenced operations, as defined in Sec.  27.4 of 
this chapter.
* * * * *

0
4. Section 15.711 is amended by revising paragraph (a) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  15.711  Interference avoidance methods.

* * * * *
    (a) Geo-location required. White space devices shall rely on a geo-
location capability and database access mechanism to protect the 
following authorized service in accordance with the interference 
protection requirements of Sec.  15.712: Digital television stations, 
digital and analog Class A, low power, translator and booster stations; 
translator receive operations; fixed broadcast auxiliary service links; 
private land mobile service/commercial radio service (PLMRS/CMRS) 
operations; offshore radiotelephone service; low power auxiliary 
services authorized pursuant to Sec. Sec.  74.801 through 74.882 of 
this chapter, including licensed wireless microphones; MVPD receive 
sites; wireless medical telemetry service (WMTS); radio astronomy 
service (RAS); 600 MHz service band licensees where they have commenced 
operations, as defined in Sec.  27.4 of this chapter; and unlicensed 
wireless microphones used by venues of large events and productions/
shows as provided under Sec.  15.713(j)(9). In addition, protection 
shall be provided in border areas near Canada and Mexico in accordance 
with Sec.  15.712(g).
* * * * *

0
5. Section 15.712 is amended by revising paragraph (i) introductory 
text to read as follows:


Sec.  15.712  Interference protection requirements.

* * * * *
    (i) 600 MHz service band: Fixed and personal/portable devices 
operating in the 600 MHz Service Band must comply with the following 
co-channel and adjacent channel separation distances outside the 
defined polygonal area encompassing the base stations or other radio 
facilities deployed by a part 27 600 MHz Service Band licensee that has 
commenced operations, as defined in Sec.  27.4 of this chapter.
* * * * *

0
6. Section 15.713 is amended by revising paragraphs (b)(2)(iv) and 
(j)(10) introductory text to read as follows:


Sec.  15.713  White space database.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (2) * * *
    (iv) 600 MHz service band operations in areas where the part 27 600 
MHz service licensee has commenced operations, as defined in Sec.  27.4 
of this chapter.
* * * * *

[[Page 4975]]

    (j) * * *
    (10) 600 MHz service in areas where the part 27 600 MHz band 
licensee has commenced operations, as defined in Sec.  27.4 of this 
chapter:
* * * * *

0
7. Section 15.715 is amended by revising paragraph (n) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  15.715  White space database administrator.

* * * * *
    (n) Establish procedures to allow part 27 600 MHz service licensees 
to upload the registration information listed in Sec.  15.713(j)(10) 
for areas where they have commenced operations, as defined in Sec.  
27.4 of this chapter, and to allow the removal and replacement of 
registration information in the database when corrections or updates 
are necessary.
* * * * *

PART 27--MISCELLANEOUS WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS SERVICES

0
8. The authority citation for part 27 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 301, 302a, 303, 307, 309, 332, 336, 
337, 1403, 1404, 1451, and 1452, unless otherwise noted.


0
9. Section 27.4 is amended by adding the definition ``commence 
operations'' in alphabetical order to read as follows:


Sec.  27.4  Terms and definitions.

* * * * *
    Commence operations. A 600 MHz Band licensee is deemed to commence 
operations when it begins pre-launch site activation and commissioning 
tests using permanent base station equipment, antennas and/or tower 
locations as part of its site and system optimization in the area of 
its planned commercial service infrastructure deployment.
* * * * *


Sec.  27.19  [Redesignated as Sec.  27.1321]

0
10. Section 27.19 is redesignated as Sec.  27.1321 and transferred from 
subpart B to subpart N.

Subpart N [Amended]

0
11. Subpart N is amended by adding an undesignated center heading that 
precedes Sec.  27.1300 to read as ``Competitive Bidding Provisions''

0
12. Subpart N is amended by adding an undesignated center heading that 
precedes Sec.  27.1320 to read as ``Coordination/Notification 
Requirements''

PART 73--RADIO BROADCAST SERVICES

0
13. The authority citation for part 73 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 303, 334, 336, and 339.


0
14. Section 73.3700 is amended by revising paragraphs (g)(4)(i), 
(g)(4)(ii)(B), (g)(4)(iii), and (g)(4)(v) to read as follows:


Sec.  73.3700  Post-incentive auction licensing and operation.

* * * * *
    (g) * * *
    (4) * * *
    (i) A wireless licensee assigned to frequencies in the 600 MHz band 
under part 27 of this chapter must notify low power TV and TV 
translator stations of its intent to commence operations, as defined in 
Sec.  27.4 of this chapter, and the likelihood of receiving harmful 
interference from the low power TV or TV translator station to such 
operations within the wireless licensee's licensed geographic service 
area.
    (ii) * * *
    (B) Indicate the date the new wireless licensee intends to commence 
operations, as defined in Sec.  27.4 of this chapter, in areas where 
there is a likelihood of receiving harmful interference from the low 
power TV or TV translator station; and
* * * * *
    (iii) Low power TV and TV translator stations may continue 
operating on frequencies in the 600 MHz band assigned to wireless 
licensees under part 27 of this chapter until the wireless licensee 
commences operations, as defined in Sec.  27.4 of this chapter, as 
indicated in the notification sent pursuant to this paragraph.
* * * * *
    (v) Low power TV and TV translator stations that are operating on 
the UHF spectrum that is reserved for guard band channels as a result 
of the broadcast television incentive auction conducted under section 
6403 of the Spectrum Act may continue operating on such channels until 
the end of the post-auction transition period as defined in Sec.  27.4 
of this chapter, unless they receive notification from a new wireless 
licensee pursuant to the requirements of paragraph (g)(4) of this 
section that they are likely to cause harmful interference in areas 
where the wireless licensee intends to commence operations, as defined 
in Sec.  27.4 of this chapter, in which case the requirements of 
paragraph (g)(4) of this section will apply.
* * * * *

PART 74--EXPERIMENTAL RADIO, AUXILIARY, SPECIAL BROADCAST AND OTHER 
PROGRAM DISTRIBUTIONAL SERVICES

0
15. The authority citation for part 74 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 302a, 303, 307, 309, 336 and 554.


0
16. Section 74.602 is amended by revising paragraph (h)(5)(ii) 
introductory text to read as follows:


Sec.  74.602  Frequency assignment.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *
    (5) * * *
    (ii) A wireless licensee assigned to frequencies in the 600 MHz 
band under part 27 of this chapter must notify the licensee of a TV 
STL, TV relay station, or TV translator relay station of its intent to 
commence operations, as defined in Sec.  27.4 of this chapter, and the 
likelihood of harmful interference from the TV STL, TV relay station, 
or TV translator relay station to those operations within the wireless 
licensee's licensed geographic service area.
* * * * *

0
17. Section 74.802 is amended by revising paragraph (f) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  74.802  Frequency assignment.

* * * * *
    (f) Operations in 600 MHz band assigned to wireless licensees under 
part 27 of this chapter. A low power auxiliary station that operates on 
frequencies in the 600 MHz band assigned to wireless licensees under 
part 27 of this chapter must cease operations on those frequencies no 
later than the end of the post-auction transition period, as defined in 
Sec.  27.4 of this chapter. During the post-auction transition period, 
low power auxiliary stations will operate on a secondary basis to 
licensees of part 27 of this chapter, i.e., they must not cause to and 
must accept harmful interference from these licensees, and must comply 
with the distance separations in Sec.  15.236(e)(2) of this chapter 
from the areas specified in Sec.  15.713(j)(10) of this chapter in 
which a licensee has commenced operations, as defined in Sec.  27.4 of 
this chapter.

[FR Doc. 2016-01282 Filed 1-28-16; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P