4.9 GHz Public Safety Band Offers Government Entities Exclusive Spectrum Rights

By Jaime Fink

The past several years have seen explosive growth in the number of wireless Internet access devices operating in unlicensed spectrum bands. Especially in the 5 GHz band, the availability of unlicensed spectrum has given rise to a number of low-cost backhaul and access devices that enable people to reliably connect to the Internet at a relatively low cost.

In densely populated areas where unlicensed spectrum may be especially crowded, licensed spectrum can be a viable alternative, though at a typically higher cost than operation in the unlicensed bands, both for the equipment and in the coordination process.

For an important segment of users, however – namely, state and local government entities – a highly reliable and blazingly fast Internet connection can literally mean the difference between life and death. For these entities faced with the critical task of providing police, fire and first responder services, the FCC has set aside 50 MHz of licensed spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band entirely for the purpose of providing “public safety services.”

The FCC Part 90 rules regarding the use of this band permit “entities providing public safety services” to operate “any number of base stations anywhere in the area authorized by the license” with relatively few restrictions. The area authorized by the license is defined any “geographic area encompassing the legal jurisdiction of the licensee.” The licensed channels are available only on a shared basis with other public safety entities, and licensees are expected to cooperate to resolve interference issues.

The legal jargon can be dense, but what does this regulation mean for operators? In short, because the Mimosa unlicensed 5 GHz backhaul products are also authorized to operate down to 4.9 GHz, government entities providing public safety services can now take full advantage of 50 MHz of clean, quiet, licensed spectrum via a simple online licensing application with the FCC. Canada has a similar license allocation for public safety entities in the 4.9 GHz band.

The bottom line? The same Mimosa B5c and B5-Lite products that perform so well in the unlicensed 5 GHz band can potentially perform even better for those entities able to take advantage of this unique opportunity to claim licensed spectrum at the price of unlicensed radios. And early next year, Mimosa’s access point products will also support 4.9 GHz, allowing government and NGO customers to continue to grow their networks in this exclusive spectrum band.