FCC To Rule On 900MHz Spectrum For Private LTE, 5G Networks

…For Smart Utilities


By James Blackman

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said it will consider allowing the 900 MHz band in the US to be used by energy companies for private LTE and 5G networking.

The move is a response to a long-standing request by private networking firm Anterix, which holds the largest share of 900 MHz spectrum in the US, to open the 900 MHz band for private usage.

It follows the liberalisation of spectrum for private and shared networking in a number of markets, which have taken their lead from the FCC’s decision to re-farm CBRS spectrum at 3.5G-3.7 GHz.

Anterix holds 900 MHz spectrum in the mainland US, as well as in Hawaii and Alaska, and also in Puerto Rico. Its goal is to license 900 MHz spectrum and supply 900 MHz solutions to the utility sector to drive grid modernisation, supporting the integration of renewable energy sources, and other innovations.

Chief executive at Anterix, Morgan O’Brien said “The utility and enterprise ecosystems are eager to put this spectrum to work fuelling industrial 5G and delivering the benefits of secure, innovative, private LTE broadband networks. This decision will lead to new jobs, new investment, and new technology development.”

The FCC confirmed it will present a draft order during an open meeting on May 13.

Power company Ameren has signed a letter-of-intent with Anterix for a long-term lease of 900 MHz spectrum to enable it to deploy a private LTE network for its service territories in Missouri and Illinois. Ameren has already piloted a private LTE network at 900 MHz.

Director of network engineering for Ameren, John Hughes said “To enable the grid of the future, the system requires a smarter, stronger and more secure communications network with far greater bandwidth. We thank the FCC for considering this action at 900 MHz, as it offers the exact opportunity we seek.

“Ameren envisions a future where broadband plays a key role in the control and management of our network, providing enhanced communication with co-workers, resulting in a better experience for our customers. Ameren intends to use a private LTE network for a wide range of applications slated to expand over time.”

Meanwhile, a number of other companies involved in selling networking and solutions to utilities were quoted in the original Anterix statement.

Vice president for commercial markets at Motorola Solutions, Scott Schoepel said “Motorola Solutions appreciates the FCC action, which clears the way for a broadband opportunity in the 900 MHz band and lays a foundation for the secure and interoperable communications needed for modern and resilient critical infrastructure.

“We look forward to working with private enterprise users on 900 MHz solutions that span voice, data, video and IoT to address their end-to-end communications needs.”

Chief technology officer for industries at Cisco Systems, Todd Gurela said “Cisco looks forward to working with leading utility customers as they deploy 900 MHz private LTE networks. The FCC’s decision to create this opportunity at 900 MHz demonstrates its keen appreciation for the individualised needs of this vital segment of the American economy.”

Director of utilities for Sierra Wireless, Warren Westrup said “Sierra Wireless is excited to see the FCC bring another band of spectrum to market to fuel the continued growth of private LTE and industrial 5G. We look forward to continuing our efforts to expand the technology evolution of these sectors.”

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