Say goodbye to another amateur radio band. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has ruled that it will revoke amateur radio privileges on the 3300-3500 MHz (9-cm Microwave band). The FCC will auction the band to wireless telecom companies to support 5G rollouts across the United States. The dates when amateur radio privileges will “sunset” have yet to be approved. Ham radio operators should expect this to occur sometime in 2021.
“We adopt our proposal from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to remove the amateur allocation from the 3.3 – 3.5 GHz band,” the FCC said in its Report and Order (R&O) and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in WT Docket No. 19-348, adopted on September 30 and published October 9 in The Federal Register, R&O. “[W]e adopt changes to our rules today that provide for the sunset of the secondary amateur allocation in the band, but allow continued use of the band for amateur operations, pending resolution of the issues raised in the Further Notice.”– Federal Communication Commission
Many ham radio operators likely haven’t used the 9-centimeter band, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. Operators are doing moonbounce operations, and other microwave experimenters are active on the band. The most exciting use could be the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN) project. The 9-centimeter band provides 24 channels on 3.5 GHz that are not currently shared with Part 15 users. AREDN mesh networks have proven to be useful in emergency situations.
We should all be asking the real question. Why is this happening? Look no further than the MOBILE NOW Act. The MOBILE NOW Act was introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) in 2017 and signed by President Donald Trump in 2018. The legislation directs the FCC to make additional spectrum available to auction for mobile and fixed wireless broadband to support 5G development.
Following the telecom money
It’s not a secret that 5G will require a lot of spectrum. LTE channel bandwidth maxes out at 20 MHz per-channel. 5G channel bandwidth can be as wide as 100 MHz. No, that’s not a typo.
Wireless carriers have been snapping up spectrum in recent years to prepare for 5G rollouts, making billions for the U.S. government in the process. Whoever has the most spectrum will have the most robust 5G network — plain and simple.
The Verizon and AT&Ts of the world would love nothing more than to get their hands on spectrum that’s currently used by the Federal government (or amateur radio). That’s what the MOBILE NOW Act was all about— getting the Federal Government to sell more of the RF spectrum to private telecoms.
Remember Sen. John Thune, the legislator who first introduced the bill? Take a guess who his biggest financial donors are?
All of the companies highlighted in green have a stake in the development of 5G. Of course, Sen. Thune will introduce legislation as they’ve lobbied him to do. Whoever has the most money has the loudest voice in Congress.
The threat to ham radio
Private telecom companies pushing to purchase spectrum is the greatest threat to ham radio. It’s not FT8, DMR/YSF/D-Star or any other digital mode that hams grumble about. More than ever we need effective representation in Washington D.C. advocating for the value that amateur radio provides to the
However, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is actually doing less than ever before, only focusing on the Ham Radio Parity Act which protects ham radio operators from HOAs. The bill remains stuck in committee.
Amateur Radio Relay League Lobbying Efforts
How can we fight back?
I don’t have any good answers or ideas. The only thing I know for sure is we need better organization and representation. Oh, and that money thing might help.
Leave your ideas on how we can fight to preserve our ham radio bands below and share this article to help spread awareness in the ham radio community!