CFR Part: "47 CFR Parts 22, 24, 27, 87, and 90"
Citation: "79 FR 2615"
Document Number: "WT Docket No. 13-301;
SUMMARY: In this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the Commission proposes to revise outdated rules and adopt consistent new rules governing mobile communications services aboard airborne aircraft. These rule changes would give airlines, subject to applicable
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I. Introduction and Background
1. By this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), we propose to revise outdated rules and adopt consistent new rules governing mobile communications services aboard airborne aircraft. These rule changes would give airlines, subject to applicable
2. In recent years, air carriers have been enhancing their in-flight communications service offerings to meet the increasing consumer demand for broadband connectivity on aircraft. One study predicts that the number of aircraft offering wireless connectivity will reach 4,048 by the end of 2013 (representing 21 percent of the global fleet), and will rise to 14,000 by 2022 (a 50 percent connectivity penetration in commercial aircraft). This study also projects that approximately 5,000 of these aircraft will offer both Wi-Fi and cellular options. According to one survey of adult airline passengers, 69 percent of airline passengers that brought a portable electronic device (PED)--such as a tablet or smartphone--onto an aircraft in the past 12 months reported that they used their devices during flight. The report did not distinguish between transmitting PEDs and non-transmitting PEDs. Also, notably, in
3. Internationally, more than forty jurisdictions, including the
(1) Remove existing, narrow restrictions on airborne use of mobile devices in the 800 MHz cellular and Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) bands, replacing them with a more comprehensive framework encompassing access to mobile communications services in all mobile wireless bands;
(2) Harmonize regulations governing the operation of mobile devices on airborne aircraft across all commercial mobile spectrum bands; /1/
FOOTNOTE 1 For purposes of this Notice, "commercial mobile spectrum bands" include: (1) the 800 MHz cellular band (824-849 and 869-894 MHz); (2) SMR spectrum within the bands (806-824 and 851-869 MHz and 896-901 and 935-940 MHz); (3) the Broadband Personal Communications Service (PCS) band (1850-1915 and 1930-1995 MHz); (4) 700 MHz band (698-757 and 775-787 MHz); (5) the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) band (1710-1755 and 2110-2155 MHz); (6) the Wireless Communications Service (WCS) band (2305-2320 and 2345-2360 MHz); and AWS-4 (2000-2020 MHz and 2180-2200 MHz). We would expect to add other spectrum bands if and when they are allocated for commercial mobile broadband use. END FOOTNOTE
(3) Add the authority to provide mobile communications services on airborne aircraft across all commercial mobile spectrum bands to existing part 87 aircraft station licenses;
(4) Allow mobile communications services on airborne aircraft only if managed by an Airborne Access System certified by the
(5) Limit authorization for mobile communications services to aircraft travelling at altitudes of more than 3,048 meters (approximately 10,000 feet) above the ground;
(6) We also seek comment on alternative authorization frameworks, the potential impact of these proposals on public safety and national security, and issues related to the use of voice services onboard aircraft.
4. Consistent with our continued efforts to increase consumer access to broadband and the
A. FCC Regulations Limiting Airborne Mobile Use
5. Commission rules governing the use of airborne mobile devices vary significantly among services. Specifically, airborne use of the 800 MHz cellular band is prohibited and airborne use of the 800 MHz SMR band is prohibited on aircraft that typically fly at altitudes over one mile. There are no such restrictions on airborne use of the AWS, PCS, WCS, 700 MHz, or AWS-4 bands. As noted above resolving these inconsistencies is one of the primary goals of this proceeding.
6. Part 22 of the Commission's rules prohibits the airborne use of 800 MHz cellular telephones, including the use of such phones on commercial and private aircraft. This prohibition was adopted in 1991 to guard against the threat of harmful interference from airborne use of cellular phones to terrestrial cellular networks. The Commission's prohibition was not to ensure interference-free operation of avionics equipment. When the prohibition was adopted, the Commission noted that a cellular telephone used onboard an airborne aircraft would have greater range than a land-based handset, and its signal would be received by multiple terrestrial cell sites in a given market, causing harmful interference. Moreover, the Commission found that because a cellular telephone can transmit on all assigned 800 MHz cellular frequencies, a single handset could interfere with cellular systems in multiple cellular market areas simultaneously. Thus, the Commission concluded that "the need for noninterference in all cellular transmissions outweighs the benefits that would be realized by allowing the public to use cellular service in airborne aircraft."
7. Similarly, the part 90 rules restrict the use of SMR handsets while airborne in certain circumstances. The altitude restriction in
B. 2004 Airborne Mobile NPRM
9. Notably, the Airborne Mobile NPRM proposed to require onboard use of picocells to prevent harmful interference to terrestrial mobile networks. Under this proposal, airborne picocells would have been used to manage the power levels of mobile handsets onboard aircraft to ensure that they operated at or near their minimum power levels. The Airborne Mobile NPRM also sought comment on whether this proposal should be applied to only the 800 MHz cellular spectrum covered by the current part 22 rule, or whether the picocell requirement should be expanded to include handsets and devices operating on spectrum bands under parts 24, 27, or 90.
10. The Commission received more than 8,000 submissions in the docket. However, few of the commenters provided requested technical analyses. Citing the insufficiency of the technical record and finding that it would be premature to decide the issues presented in the Airborne Mobile NPRM without additional information, the Commission terminated the proceeding on
C. International Developments
11. Since the Commission issued the Airborne Mobile Termination Order in 2007, numerous foreign communications administrations have issued regulations that have successfully allowed the non-interfering use of mobile communications services on airborne aircraft utilizing Airborne Access Systems.
12. Most notably, in 2008, the
13. Pursuant to the EC Decision, the communications administrations of all twenty-seven EU member states subsequently created licensing mechanisms for airborne mobile services in their individual jurisdictions. On
14. Outside of
15. We are not aware of any reported cases of harmful interference to terrestrial systems stemming from the use of Airborne Access Systems since airlines began offering mobile communications services on airborne aircraft. In response to an
D. Current FCC Authorization of Airborne Broadband Access
16. The Commission first paved the way for in-flight voice and data services in 1990 when it allocated four megahertz of spectrum for commercial Air-Ground Radiotelephone Service. This led to the deployment of service offered via seat-back phones in many commercial aircraft. Additionally, in 1998, the Commission granted to
17. In addition to the 800 MHz Air-Ground band, satellite spectrum also has been used as an air-to-ground link. The L-band Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) has been used to provide data service to and from aircraft since the 1990s. Beginning in 2001, the Commission authorized, on an ad hoc basis, the use of earth stations aboard aircraft (ESAA) communicating with Ku-band geosynchronous orbit (GSO) Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) space stations to provide connectivity to airborne aircraft. In
18. The Commission recently has taken further action to expand access to broadband services onboard aircraft and improve the quality of services offered. Notably, on
19. The Commission also has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes to establish a new air-ground mobile broadband service in the 14.0-14.5 GHz band. The new service will operate on a secondary, non-interference basis with FSS Earth-to-space communications. If the rules proposed in that proceeding are adopted, the new service would significantly increase the capacity available to aircraft for broadband backhaul.
E. Other Federal Government Actions
21. The ARC concluded that most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference signals from PEDs. However, PEDs with cellular capabilities must disable those capabilities during flight. The ARC recommended that, subject to this condition, PEDs be permitted to operate "gate-to-gate" provided that the airline operators and aircraft manufacturers certify their aircraft to demonstrate "tolerance" of emissions from PEDs. While cell phones were excluded from the scope of the ARC Report, the ARC did recommend that the
22. In the six years since the Commission issued the Airborne Mobile Termination Order, the mobile communications landscape has undergone a series of dramatic changes. Global mobile data traffic increased by 70 percent from 2011 to 2012 and, driven by widespread adoption of smartphones, tablets, and other high data use devices, it is projected to increase thirteen-fold by 2017. Consumers are ever more dependent on reliable high speed connectivity for these devices for personal communications, business, and entertainment. Moreover, as noted, numerous international administrations have adopted rules for the safe, non-interfering use of mobile services on airborne aircraft utilizing Airborne Access Systems. The successful widespread international adoption of these systems demonstrates the technical viability of mobile communications services on airborne aircraft today.
23. In light of the increasing demand for mobile communications services on airborne aircraft and widespread confirmation of its technical viability, we propose to revise our rules to enable domestic and international travelers to access mobile services onboard aircraft flying in U.S. airspace. To that end, we propose to: (1) Remove existing Commission restrictions on airborne use of mobile devices in the 800 MHz cellular and 800 MHz SMR bands; (2) harmonize regulations governing the operation of mobile devices on airborne aircraft across all commercial mobile spectrum bands; and (3) implement a comprehensive licensing and regulatory framework to facilitate access to mobile communications services on aircraft. These proposals are consistent with our longstanding commitment to facilitate universal broadband access, promote investment and innovation, and encourage efficient, flexible use of spectrum. We seek comment on these proposals.
24. The proposals in this NPRM would also require airlines to install Airborne Access Systems if they choose to provide mobile communications services on airborne aircraft. As described below, the Airborne Access System incorporates hardware and software to enable the provision of service and to manage services onboard the aircraft. In practice, the system would connect wireless devices on the aircraft operating on licensed wireless frequencies to a terrestrial network via satellite or air-ground links. While business models may vary, under one model, passengers on a flight with an Airborne Access System would be able to access the wireless service to which they subscribe when above 3,048 meters (10,000 feet) through the Airborne Access System, and would be billed for the service directly by their service provider.
25. In this NPRM, we also seek comment on the alternative licensing and regulatory frameworks for the provision of mobile communications services on airborne aircraft, the potential impact of these proposals on public safety and national security, and any potential operational issues related to the use of mobile services, including voice, onboard aircraft. We are committed to working closely with other federal agencies that have expertise and may have more appropriate jurisdiction over some of these operational areas.
26. Throughout the NPRM, where we seek comment on the costs and benefits of a proposal, we ask that commenters take into account costs and benefits that result from the implementation of the particular rules that could be adopted, including any proposed requirement or potential alternative requirement. Further, to the extent possible, commenters should provide specific data and information, such as actual or estimated dollar figures for each specific cost or benefit addressed, including a description of how the data or information was calculated or obtained, and any supporting documentation or other evidentiary support.
A. Changes to Current Rules Restricting Airborne Mobile Broadband Use
27. As an initial matter, we propose to remove or modify the current restrictions on airborne mobile operations in parts 22 and 90 of the Commission's rules. We propose to replace these restrictions with references to a revised authorization regime under part 87 of the Commission's rules that would allow aircraft station licensees to provide mobile communications services using an Airborne Access System. We seek comment on whether, in light of the proposals set forth herein and recent technological advances, these restrictions remain necessary to prevent harmful interference to terrestrial mobile networks.
28. We also propose to add cross references to the new part 87 airborne mobile service authorization to parts 22, 24, 27, and 90 as set forth in this NPRM. (This proceeding does not address paging services authorized under part 22 of the Commission's rules. This NPRM is primarily concerned with facilitating the deployment of airborne mobile broadband services and, as such, paging services are beyond the scope of this proposal.) We propose to make the rules governing airborne mobile service consistent across all commercial mobile spectrum bands, thereby reducing confusion, improving administrative efficiency, and promoting Airborne Access System measures that will permit the provision of mobile communications services on aircraft across all commercial mobile spectrum bands. We seek comment on these proposals. Parties that oppose the removal of the extant bans or the harmonization of airborne mobile access rules should provide detailed technical and legal analyses to support their positions.
B. Airborne Access Systems
1. Potential Harmful Interference From Uncontrolled Airborne Mobile Devices
29. Mobile devices typically connect to a wireless network through the nearest cell site that can serve the device. As the distance between the devices and cell sites increases, signals are attenuated by terrain and obstacles such as buildings, and blocked by the curvature of the earth. However, an uncontrolled wireless device on an airborne aircraft could potentially cause co-channel interference at multiple cell sites. This is because, even though the airborne wireless signal becomes weaker with increasing height above the ground, unlike the terrestrial case, it is not attenuated by terrain and obstacles, and it is not affected by the curvature of the earth. Thus, the signal from an airborne handset with an unobstructed line of sight may remain sufficiently strong as the device attempts to access multiple terrestrial sites, causing harmful interference or other undesirable effects to terrestrial systems. We concur with the conclusions in the CEPT MCA Reports that interactions between mobile terminals onboard aircraft and terrestrial mobile networks are possible unless managed properly. Unmanaged airborne mobile devices will attempt to connect and in some cases will succeed in temporarily connecting to a terrestrial system, causing harmful interference and disruption to the system it is connected to and to surrounding systems.
2. Benefits of Airborne Access Systems
30. As set forth above, the current parts 22 and 90 prohibitions on mobile communications services on aircraft were designed to guard against the threat of harmful interference from airborne use of mobile devices to terrestrial wireless networks. Airborne Access Systems are used to minimize the potential for airborne wireless devices interfering with terrestrial networks. The most common Airborne Access System in use internationally today consists of an airborne picocell and a network control unit (NCU). In effect, an airborne picocell is a low power base station transceiver installed in the aircraft for the purpose of communicating with (and controlling the operations of) mobile handsets or other transmitting electronic devices onboard an aircraft. The picocell controls the power levels of all transmitting mobile broadband devices operating onboard aircraft, keeping them at or near their minimum output power. A picocell is analogous to an in-building distributed antenna system (like those used in large buildings, malls, etc.) for use in the aircraft. The signal travels from the handset to the picocell, which then relays the call to the ground via a separate air-ground link, e.g., via a satellite band or the 800 MHz Air-Ground band, after which it can be transferred to the terrestrial network. In addition, the NCU raises the noise floor within the cabin to prevent devices from attempting to communicate with terrestrial networks. Under the rules proposed below, terrestrial service providers and aircraft station licensees would be permitted to negotiate commercial agreements to facilitate access to terrestrial networks. We note that for the Airborne Access Systems to effectively prevent cell phones that have the capability to operate outside the network from attempting to communicate with terrestrial networks and prevent potential interference to avionics, the noise floor likely would have to be raised onboard aircraft in all commercial mobile spectrum bands. We seek comment on whether airline passengers would be capable of accessing broadband services onboard aircraft over commercial mobile spectrum bands absent an agreement between their terrestrial mobile service provider and the aircraft station licensee.
31. Used in this manner, Airborne Access Systems appear to be an effective means of providing airline passengers with mobile broadband connectivity, while preventing harmful interference to terrestrial wireless networks. Indeed, as noted above, Airborne Access Systems are used to provide mobile broadband connectivity on flights in
3. Technical Requirements
32. Based on the available research and international practices, we tentatively conclude that Airborne Access Systems can be used to facilitate airborne mobile broadband access without causing harmful interference to terrestrial networks. We therefore propose to allow airborne use of mobile devices controlled by a properly managed Airborne Access System.
33. Our review of existing operations reveals that, for an Airborne Access System to effectively manage emissions from mobile broadband-capable devices, certain technical restrictions must be enforced. Specifically, three types of devices transmitting aboard the aircraft must be limited in power to prevent harmful interference to terrestrial networks: (1) The mobile device; (2) the picocell; and (3) the NCU. Measures that may be taken to limit power include, but are not necessarily limited to, mobile power restrictions, aircraft picocell power restrictions, NCU power and/or technology limitations, altitude restrictions, and methods to prevent an airborne mobile phone from accessing the terrestrial CMRS network. We use the technical analyses and conclusions released by CEPT earlier this year on these matters as a baseline for our technical inquiries. We note that this report focused only on European commercial mobile spectrum bands, and believe that CEPT's findings are a solid foundation on which we can adopt technical requirements. We seek comments on this belief, as well as on the potential implications of the use of different spectrum bands in
a. Mobile Device
34. Unmanaged airborne PEDs will attempt to connect and in some cases will succeed in temporarily connecting to a terrestrial system, causing harmful interference and disruption to the system it is connected to and to surrounding systems. Thus, airborne mobile devices must be operated at sufficiently low power levels to prevent harmful interference with terrestrial broadband networks while still being able to communicate with the Airborne Access System.
35. CEPT MCA Report 48 concluded that an Airborne Access System would not interfere with terrestrial networks provided it met certain technical criteria. It defined acceptable radiation from various sources for a point outside the aircraft at various altitudes. At 3,000 meters (approximately 9,842 feet), the report specifies an aggregate effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP) of 3.1 dBm/3.84 megahertz outside the aircraft for up to 20 individual mobile UMTS devices limited to -6 dBm/3.84 megahertz. The report also specifies a limit of 1.7 dBm/5 megahertz for individual LTE devices transmitting at 5 dBm/5 megahertz at 3,000 meters. Because the analysis in CEPT MCA Report 48 is limited to frequency bands utilized within the EU, we request comment on whether the same findings are applicable to systems operating on bands used for commercial mobile radio services in
b. Aircraft Picocell
35. The aircraft picocell communicates with the individual mobile devices onboard the aircraft and with its air-to-ground or satellite backhaul link. The power of onboard picocells must be limited to prevent harmful interference to the terrestrial network. CEPT MCA Report 48 limits the EIRP outside the aircraft from picocell transmissions to 1.0 dBm/3.84 megahertz for UMTS and 1.0 dBm/megahertz for LTE. We request comment on whether these levels are appropriate and can be applied to operations on U.S. commercial mobile spectrum bands. We also encourage commenters to submit relevant data and studies pertaining to bands used for commercial mobile radio services in
36. The NCU prevents mobile devices from connecting to the terrestrial network while on the aircraft. Uncontrolled, some mobile devices are capable of contacting terrestrial networks, even at altitudes exceeding 3,048 meters (10,000 feet). The NCU raises the noise floor within the aircraft cabin to prevent onboard mobile devices from communicating with the terrestrial network. NCUs also must be limited in power to prevent harmful interference to terrestrial networks. CEPT MCA Report 48 specifies for operations in the 2600 MHz (2500-2570 MHz and 2620-2690 MHz) band a limit at 3000 meters of 1.9 dBm/4.75 megahertz and for operations in the 800 MHz (790-862 MHz) band the limit is 0.87 dBm/10 megahertz. The EC previously established limits for the 460-470 MHz, 921-960 MHz, 1805-1880 MHz, and 2110-2170 MHz bands in its Decision. Those findings were reaffirmed by CEPT MCA Report 48. We request comment on whether these levels are appropriate and can be applied to operations on domestic mobile spectrum bands. As CEPT MCA Report 48 limits vary by frequency band, which of these limits would be appropriate for each of the bands used for commercial mobile service in
37. We also seek comment generally on CEPT's findings and technical proposals. We ask that commenters address: (1) Whether Airborne Access Systems can effectively prevent harmful interference into terrestrial wireless networks; (2) whether alternative or supplemental technological solutions would be more effective; (3) whether the proposed power levels are appropriate; and (4) what additional technical specifications may be needed to ensure that these systems and airborne mobile broadband devices do not interfere with existing terrestrial networks. We also request comment on any other technical restrictions or requirements that may be necessary to prevent harmful interference to terrestrial CMRS networks or to ensure reliable communications for mobile communications services on aircraft, or whether an alternative technical solution may be more appropriate in the domestic marketplace. Commenters should include technical analyses to support their proposals, including the costs and benefits of adopting a particular approach.
38. We reiterate that the
39. Although any
40. Moreover, we note that, within the context of applicable
C. Airborne Commercial Mobile Use
41. We propose to allow aircraft station licensees to provide airborne commercial mobile services as part of their aircraft station license under part 87 of the Commission's rules and seek comment on alternative authorization methodologies. Under any airborne authorization scheme, Airborne Access Systems would be required to manage in-flight mobile use. Mobile communications services controlled by authorized Airborne Access Systems would be permitted across all commercial mobile spectrum bands at altitudes above 3,048 meters (10,000 feet). These authorizations would cover only in-cabin operations. Moreover, any authorization method would require an agreement with separately authorized satellite or air-to-ground backhaul links to transmit mobile data from the aircraft to terrestrial networks.
1. Part 87 Authorization Methodology
a. Part 87 Aircraft License Modification
42. We propose to revise part 87 of the Commission's rules to permit mobile communications services on aircraft as one element of an aircraft station license and seek comment on this proposal, as well as alternative authorization frameworks. Part 87 of the Commission's rules governs the authorization and use of radio services onboard aircraft, between aircraft, and between air and ground stations for aircraft travelling domestically and U.S. aircraft travelling to international destinations (including international waters). See 47 CFR 87.1, et seq. We note that U.S.-registered civil aircraft licensed for an Airborne Access System would bear the responsibility of ascertaining and complying with the applicable laws, regulations, and rules of any foreign nation in which they seek to operate. Unless exempted, airlines must obtain an aircraft station license to cover any radio equipment or services other than certain two-way VHF, radar, or emergency locator services. Under certain conditions, two or more aircraft having a common owner or operator may be issued a single fleet license to cover all aircraft stations in a given fleet. We seek comment on how this proposal would work with
43. Authorizing the proposed use in this manner would allow airlines and other commercial aircraft operators to install and operate Airborne Access Systems as part of their existing aircraft station or fleet licenses. Aircraft station licensees would be required to file for a modification of their existing aircraft station or fleet licenses on FCC Form 605 to include the newly designated airborne mobile communications authorization. To the extent that an aircraft operator does not have an aircraft station license, that aircraft operator would, under this proposal, be required to apply for an aircraft station license in order to operate an Airborne Access System. Licensees would be permitted to contract with third parties to install and operate Airborne Access System aboard licensed aircraft. However, aircraft station licensees would retain sole responsibility for ensuring that such equipment is installed and operated in accordance with all applicable rules.
44. The airborne radio environment is interference-sensitive and must be closely controlled by aircraft station licensees to ensure stable operation of mission critical equipment, the safety of aircraft passengers and crew, and compliance with all applicable rules and regulations. Aircraft station licensees currently manage this unique environment for a wide variety of radio services in accordance with
45. We propose to retain the current licensing assignment methods applicable to part 87 aircraft station licenses. Although we propose to permit licensees to provide a new service offering, the underlying functions of aircraft station licenses remains the same. Under this proposal, existing aircraft station licensees seeking to provide mobile communications services on aircraft could request a modification of their current authorizations to permit operation of an Airborne Access System, and applicants for new aircraft station authorizations could indicate on their applications their intention to provide mobile communications services on aircraft. We seek comment on whether such license modifications must be placed on public notice for thirty days pursuant to section 309 of the Communications Act. We seek comment on this proposed authorization approach, as well as the alternative authorization mechanisms listed below, and on what changes, if any, may need to be made to the table of allocations to reflect this licensing regime.
46. We acknowledge that, with respect to the NCU transmissions and the communications between the picocell and the consumer mobile devices, the Airborne Access System proposed here would operate on spectrum licensed to mobile service providers for terrestrial wireless use. However, we do not propose to modify the existing rights of commercial mobile licensees or otherwise impede their ability to provide mobile services within their license areas. Under our proposal, aircraft operators should be able to offer access to wireless services to the limited confines of the in-cabin environment in a safe and effective manner--and thereby extend broadband service to an otherwise difficult-to-serve market segment--while protecting incumbent terrestrial licensees from harmful interference and without infringing upon incumbents' existing operations. We seek comment on this proposal, including potential impacts it may have on the existing rights of terrestrial mobile licensees.
b. Alternative Authorization Methods
47. We also seek comment on alternative authorization methods. For completeness, we describe several alternatives below, although we acknowledge that some of these methods may suffer from deficiencies that make them less desirable in a public interest analysis. We also request comment on other approaches that are not enumerated below. We encourage commenters to provide details on how any authorization regime, including the part 87 authorization method described above, would work in practice (including the relationship with other licensees or services authorized in the same frequency bands), how it would further the various public interest goals enumerated in this NPRM, and its relative costs and benefits.
48. Non-Exclusive License. One alternative authorization method would establish an Airborne Access System Service pursuant to which applicants could file for non-exclusive licenses to provide airborne mobile services. Eligibility for such licenses would be limited to applicants with appropriate commercial agreements with aircraft operators to operate such systems on specific aircraft. Would such an authorization system provide additional benefits to the public or to aircraft station licensees? Under this alternative authorization scheme, would the airlines retain sufficient control over the in-cabin environment to ensure that services are provided safely and effectively? Are there any additional eligibility conditions that should be required of licensees under this authorization method?
49. Secondary Markets. Another option would authorize operation of an Airborne Access System pursuant to spectrum lease agreements with mobile wireless service providers. We observe that for any given flight, an aircraft is likely to fly above license areas for many different licensees. Moreover, the licensees implicated will likely vary throughout the course of the flight. The Commission has issued thousands of geographic mobile licenses. There are over 14,166 licenses, held by approximately 788 unique entities (based on licensee FCC Registration Number), for the spectrum bands within the scope of this NPRM. Would this authorization method be administrable in practice? How would the Commission ensure that a leasing arrangement involves the necessary parties? Would it require the cooperation of every mobile wireless service provider? Would the use of a leasing framework introduce market efficiencies or inefficiencies not present in other authorization models? Under this alternative, how would the Commission determine the boundaries of mobile licenses along a flight path and at various altitudes, especially considering the curvature of the earth?
50. Auctioned Sky Licenses. Alternately, should the Commission create nationwide or geographic "sky licenses" and allow eligible applicants to bid on these licenses via auction? Would such an authorization system provide unique benefits to the public or to aircraft station licensees? How would the Commission determine the geographic boundaries of such licenses and the proper number of licensees for each geographic area? How would such a licensing construct affect the ability of airlines to manage their in-cabin environment? Would such an authorization method create "artificial" limitations on market-based agreements between airlines and Airborne Access System providers?
51. Unlicensed Use or License-by-Rule. Should the Commission authorize unlicensed use of an Airborne Access System pursuant to our part 15 rules? Alternatively, would a license-by-rule approach be appropriate? Both methods appear, on first consideration, to raise significant issues with respect to providing airlines sufficient ability to manage mobile access in flight and to mitigate potential harmful interference into terrestrial networks. Do commenters agree? How would such authorization mechanisms work in practice? Would they require revisions to existing rule parts? Would these methodologies offer appropriate Commission oversight of the mobile communications services being proposed?
52. Commenters that advocate an alternative authorization methodology should support their arguments with detailed technical and legal analyses. Commenters should also address how the issues raised in Sections III.C.2. and 3. below would apply for any alternative authorization scheme.
2. Scope of the Authorization
53. To facilitate the widespread use of airborne mobile data services, we propose to authorize aircraft station licensees to operate Airborne Access Systems that encompass all domestic commercial mobile spectrum bands. Most broadband capable mobile devices are capable of accessing multiple commercial mobile spectrum bands which vary by device and mobile service provider. We tentatively conclude that permitting Airborne Access Systems to operate across all such bands would provide greater access to broadband data for the travelling public, and is consistent with the Commission's longstanding policy of technological neutrality. However, our proposal does not require a compliant Airborne Access System to cover all commercial mobile spectrum bands or wireless technologies. We seek comments on our proposal to not require Airborne Access Systems to cover all commercial mobile spectrum bands, including on whether this approach may increase the risk of harmful interference to terrestrial networks.
54. We further propose that airborne commercial broadband operations be permitted only at altitudes exceeding 3,048 meters (10,000 feet). The available research suggests that, at those altitudes, there is little to no risk of harmful interference into terrestrial mobile networks from properly managed airborne mobile operations. Moreover, this service floor is consistent with the rules established by the EU for airborne GSM mobile use. As noted above, we are unaware of any instances of harmful interference from properly managed airborne mobile broadband operations at altitudes above 3,048 meters (10,000 feet) into terrestrial mobile networks. We seek comment on whether the 3,048 meter (10,000 feet) service floor is appropriate for all mobile technologies (e.g., CDMA, GSM, and LTE) and spectrum bands. We also seek comment as to whether we should allow Airborne Access Systems to remain operational below 3,048 meters (10,000 feet), even if mobile communications services are not permitted at that altitude. Could low altitude Airborne Access System use actually help mitigate harmful interference by preventing activated mobile devices from attempting to access terrestrial networks? We encourage commenters to support their arguments with detailed technical studies and analyses for domestic commercial mobile spectrum bands and technologies, including detailed analyses of the costs and benefits of any such proposals.
55. We tentatively conclude that, if adopted, our proposal to permit the provision of mobile communications services on aircraft-by-aircraft station licensees at altitudes above 3,048 meters (10,000 feet) would promote the public interest by expanding mobile broadband coverage to consumers in an efficient, non-interfering manner. The deployment of Airborne Access Systems aboard commercial aircraft could provide significant public benefits without harming existing terrestrial licensees in the band. Moreover, terrestrial mobile licensees could benefit from this new commercial service offering if they choose to partner with aircraft station licensees on commercial connection agreements. We seek comment on these proposals and conclusions as well as viable alternative models. Commenters should provide detailed legal and technical analyses in support of their proposals, including detailed analyses of the costs and benefits of any such proposals.
3. Other Authorization and Licensing Issues
56. Regulatory Status. While aircraft stations authorized under part 87 are typically considered private mobile radio services, we propose to allow aircraft station licensees choosing to offer mobile communications services using an Airborne Access System to specify their regulatory status depending on the service they are providing. The Commission's current radio service license application requires an applicant for mobile services to identify the regulatory status of the service(s) it intends to provide because service offerings may bear on the applicant's eligibility to be a licensee, and other statutory and regulatory requirements. In applying that model, an applicant is permitted to choose among several regulatory classifications (e.g., common carrier, non-common carrier, or private, internal communications), or a combination thereof, and prospective airborne mobile licensees may benefit from a similar approach. We seek comment on the merits of applying a similar licensing approach to the provision of mobile communications services on aircraft and ask that commenters discuss the costs and benefits of this approach. We also seek comment on whether there are any obligations under a particular classification that should not apply to mobile communications services on aircraft. For example, should an aircraft station licensee that elects a common carrier regulatory status be required to comply with all rules applicable to CMRS licensees under part 20 of the Commission's rules given the limited scope of the in-cabin service offering? For example,
57. If the Commission permits an aircraft station licensee to choose its regulatory status in this manner, we propose that such licensees must identify their regulatory status on the FCC Form 605. Form 605 would be modified to incorporate this proposal. We also propose that if a licensee changes the service it offers such that it would be inconsistent with its regulatory status, the licensee must notify the Commission. Further, we propose that licensees must file the notice within 30 days of a change made without the need for prior Commission approval. We seek comment on whether a different time period should apply where the change results in the discontinuance, reduction, or impairment of the existing service. We seek comment on alternative proposals regarding changes to the regulatory status of a mobile communications services on aircraft provider and the costs and benefits of such proposals.
58. Given our proposal to allow an aircraft station licensee to choose its regulatory status, we note that all Commission licensees are subject to the provisions of section 310 of the Act. Section 310 requires the Commission to review foreign investment in radio station licenses and imposes specific restrictions on who may hold certain types of radio licenses. Specifically, section 310(a) of the Act expressly prohibits a foreign government or its representative from holding any radio license. Further, section 310(b) places additional restrictions on who can hold a broadcast, common carrier, aeronautical en route and aeronautical fixed radio station license. In particular, the foreign ownership restrictions in sections 310(b)(3) and (b)(4) may be implicated for those airlines that have foreign ownership--whether governmental or non-governmental--where the airline provider seeks authorization to provide a common carrier service under the rules adopted in this proceeding. We therefore tentatively conclude that we should revise FCC Form 605 to require all applicants to answer foreign ownership questions to ensure compliance with section 310. We seek comment on this tentative conclusion.
59. Connection with Terrestrial Networks. The rules governing connection with terrestrial networks would vary depending on the regulatory classification selected by a given aircraft station licensee. Aircraft station licensees that choose to register as CMRS providers would be subject to applicable part 20 and common carrier obligations. The requirements applicable to a regulatory classification would govern the rights and obligations of licensees' connections to terrestrial networks. All licensees would be permitted to enter into commercial agreements with terrestrial mobile licensees for connection to their terrestrial wireless networks. We seek comment on the costs and benefits of this approach and any other approaches that may be used to connect mobile communications services on aircraft with terrestrial networks.
60. Handset Authorization. Section 301 of the Communications Act requires a valid
61. Section 333. Section 333 of the Communications Act states that "[n]o person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this Act. . . ." The proposed Airborne Access Systems likely will operate by maintaining transmissions from mobile devices operating on commercial mobile spectrum bands at or near their lowest power level, thereby preventing these devices from attempting to access terrestrial base stations. We tentatively conclude that, pursuant to
62. Federal Spectrum. Most of the Airborne Access Systems currently authorized by foreign countries operate, at least partially, in the 1800 MHz band, consistent with international commercial allocation of this band. It is conceivable that U.S.-registered aircraft that wish to offer airborne mobile communications services will choose Airborne Access Systems with the technical ability to operate in that band, particularly those aircraft that operate internationally. Included in this band are the frequencies 1755-1850 MHz, which in
4. Applicability to Non-U.S.-Registered Aircraft Operating in U.S. Airspace
63. Non-U.S.-registered aircraft with Airborne Access Systems currently turn off airborne mobile communications services before entering U.S. airspace. We seek comment on whether it is in the public interest to allow aircraft authorized by a foreign government to provide mobile communications services to continue operating its Airborne Access System within U.S. airspace and thereby provide uninterrupted airborne mobile communications services to its passengers.
64. We also seek comment on the appropriate regulatory framework for the operation of Airborne Access Systems on non-U.S.-registered aircraft within U.S. territory. The ability of a foreign entity to use spectrum or operate radio equipment within
66. Further, to the extent the Commission adopts rules to permit mobile communications services on aircraft, a non-U.S.-registered carrier may operate an Airborne Access System that complies with such rules. Moreover, we are not aware that ICAO has adopted or intends to adopt standards and recommended practices for the operation of Airborne Access System pursuant to the
67. In light of these considerations, we tentatively conclude that current agreements do not provide non-U.S.-registered carriers independent authorization to operate Airborne Access Systems in U.S. airspace. We seek comment on these tentative conclusions. Commenters believing otherwise should identify the applicable agreement(s) and legal authority under which we may permit such operation. We also request comment on any other mechanisms that might allow for recognition of an Airborne Access System authorization issued by another administration.
68. Assuming that there are no international agreements permitting foreign-registered aircraft to operate an Airborne Access System within U.S. airspace, we seek comment as to whether the Commission should directly authorize such use on the same terms that would apply to Airborne Access System operation onboard domestic aircraft. Specifically, operators of foreign-registered aircraft would be permitted to apply for an aircraft station license under part 87 for the purpose of providing access to airborne mobile communications services to passengers while within U.S. airspace. For foreign-registered aircraft, the part 87 aircraft station license would authorize Airborne Access System operation only and would not cover other aircraft station functions. We seek comment on this proposal, as well as on any alternative licensing approaches. Commenters should discuss the costs and benefits of this or any alternative proposal. We note that applications for such authorizations would be subject to the foreign ownership provisions of sections 310(a) and (b) of the Act, just as they apply to operators of U.S.-registered aircraft.
D. Other Issues
1. Service Below 3,048 Meters (10,000 Feet)
69. As noted previously, the proposed 3,048 meter (10,000 feet) altitude floor for airborne mobile communications services would minimize the risk of harmful interference with terrestrial networks and is consistent with
70. While we propose to authorize service only above 3,048 meters (10,000 feet) for all commercial aircraft, we also seek comment generally on the technical viability, safety, and legality of mobile communications services on aircraft below 3,048 meters (10,000 feet) (or other reasonable altitude limit adopted in this proceeding) for specific purposes on certain types of aircraft. Would operations below 3,048 meters (10,000 feet) be technically viable? Should Airborne Access Systems be permitted to remain in operation at altitudes below 3,048 meters (10,000 feet)? Would such low altitude operations help to mitigate the potential for harmful interference from mobile devices into terrestrial mobile networks? If allowed, would such operations require the permission of terrestrial CMRS licensees? We emphasize that nothing in this proposal should be read to contradict the
2. Voice Service Onboard Aircraft
71. In response to the 2004 Airborne Mobile NPRM, commenters raised concerns regarding the use of voice services on airborne aircraft. We note that airborne voice service, e.g., 800 MHz Air-Ground Radiotelephone Service, has been available on many airlines for years, although we understand that voice service has been little-used. At the time of the Airborne Mobile NPRM proceeding, commercial wireless was primarily a voice service. Today, commercial mobile services are used much more heavily for data services and Internet access. We appreciate that some people and organizations may continue to have concerns about permitting voice services on aircraft. We also note that international airlines offering airborne mobile voice and data services have not experienced significant problems related to voice. Yet, consistent with our review of our technical rules and commitment to technological neutrality, our proposal would create an avenue through which airlines may choose to offer consumers an additional way to access mobile broadband services while in flight.
72. Nothing in this proposal would require or ensure the provision of voice service on airplanes. Individual airlines would determine whether this option would, in fact, be available to their passengers. The airlines themselves would be free to choose and manage the types of in-flight data and voice services they provide, subject to applicable
3. Agreements With Canada and
73. We conclude that any Airborne Access System rules we adopt in this proceeding would limit such operations to U.S. airspace and would require such operations to comply with current and future international agreements with
4. Law Enforcement and Public Safety
74. While this NPRM focuses primarily on the technical parameters and licensing mechanisms by which we may allow airlines to offer mobile wireless services on aircraft, we recognize that our proposals may also raise public safety, law enforcement and national security concerns. We note that wireless service providers are currently obligated to provide assistance to law enforcement agencies with respect to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). Specifically,
75. Beyond satisfying
76. We seek comment on whether there are additional measures that the Commission should take to address in-flight safety and security concerns beyond
III. Ex Parte Rules
77. The proceeding this NPRM initiates shall be treated as a "permit-but-disclose" proceeding in accordance with the Commission's ex parte rules. Persons making ex parte presentations must file a copy of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any oral presentation within two business days after the presentation (unless a different deadline applicable to the Sunshine period applies). Persons making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda summarizing the presentation must (1) list all persons attending or otherwise participating in the meeting at which the ex parte presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data presented and arguments made during the presentation. If the presentation consisted in whole or in part of the presentation of data or arguments already reflected in the presenter's written comments, memoranda or other filings in the proceeding, the presenter may provide citations to such data or arguments in his or her prior comments, memoranda, or other filings (specifying the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where such data or arguments can be found) in lieu of summarizing them in the memorandum. Documents shown or given to Commission staff during ex parte meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must be filed consistent with
IV. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
78. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, as amended (RFA), the Commission has prepared this Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) of the possible significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities by the policies and rules proposed in this NPRM. Written comments are requested on this IRFA. Comments must be identified as responses to the IRFA and must be filed by the deadlines for comments on the NPRM. The Commission will send a copy of the NPRM, including this IRFA, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the
A. Need for, and Objectives of, the Proposed Rules
79. By this NPRM, we propose to allow airlines (or more specifically, station licensees) to provide mobile communications services on aircraft (mobile communications services on aircraft). Currently, the Commission's rules prohibit airborne use of mobile devices in the 800 MHz cellular band and restrict use in the 800 MHz SMR band, while the rules governing other commercial mobile spectrum bands are silent. Since a previous Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that sought to address these restrictions was terminated in 2007, more than forty jurisdictions, including the European Union and
80. We propose to allow mobile communications services on aircraft by: (1) Removing existing restrictions on airborne use of mobile devices in the 800 MHz cellular and 800 MHz SMR bands; (2) harmonizing regulations governing the operation of mobile devices on airborne aircraft across all commercial mobile spectrum bands; and (3) implementing a comprehensive regulatory framework to promote airborne mobile data use using all commercial mobile spectrum bands.
81. Under our proposal, we would add the authority to provide mobile communications services on aircraft across all commercial mobile spectrum bands (as categorized below) to the existing part 87 aircraft station licenses of domestic airlines. Alternatively, the NPRM seeks comment on whether we should permit inflight mobile wireless service using an alternative authorization method. Alternatives could include: (1) Non-exclusive licenses by which applicants, an airline or other entity, could file to provide airborne wireless services; (2) terrestrial license leases whereby an airline could provide service through lease agreements with mobile wireless service licensees; (3) auctioned "sky licenses" covering nationwide or geographic markets that would be assigned pursuant to competitive bidding, or; (4) unlicensed use or license-by-rule whereby eligible entities would be permitted to operate without the Commission issuing individual licenses.
82. We propose to allow mobile communications services on aircraft only if managed by an Airborne Access System (Airborne Access System), which would control the emissions of onboard portable electronic devices by requiring them to remain at or near their lowest transmitting power level and prevent such devices from causing harmful interference to terrestrial networks. We also propose to limit mobile communications services on aircraft to aircraft travelling at altitudes above 3,048 meters (10,000 feet).
B. Legal Basis
83. This action is taken under sections 1, 4(i), 11, and 303(r) and (y), 308, 309, and 332 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 151, 154(i), 161, 303(r), (y), 308, 309, and 332.
C. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities To Which the Proposed Rules Will Apply
84. The RFA directs agencies to provide a description of, and where feasible, an estimate of the number of small entities that may be affected by the proposed rules, if adopted herein. The RFA generally defines the term "small entity" as having the same meaning as the terms "small business," "small organization," and "small governmental 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.
85. In addition, we have adopted criteria for defining three groups of small businesses for purposes of determining their eligibility for special provisions such as bidding credits. We have defined a small business as an entity that, together with its affiliates and controlling principals, has average gross revenues not exceeding
86. In the following paragraphs, we further describe and estimate the number and type of small entities that may be affected by the proposals set forth in the NPRM. If our proposals are adopted, small airlines that choose to implement mobile communications services on aircraft could be required to modify their existing part 87 licenses and comply with new regulatory requirements, including as to the mobile communications services on aircraft equipment. Such compliance would involve, to varying degrees, the services described below. Under our proposals, an airline would be permitted to negotiate commercial agreements with the entities described in the following. It is possible that an airline could negotiate agreements affecting all communications services listed, or an airline may reach agreements involving only certain categories.
87. The NPRM also request comment on whether we should permit inflight mobile wireless services through alternative licensing methodologies. In such cases, any eligible entity (airlines or others) would be permitted to provide mobile wireless services onboard aircraft. In such cases, the authorized parties could be any of the service providers listed below. In addition, any device manufacturers that choose to manufacture devices for mobile communications services on aircraft use will have to ensure that such devices comply with any rules adopted in this proceeding.
88. Small Businesses, Small Organizations, and Small Governmental Jurisdictions. The proposals set forth in the NPRM, may, over time, affect small entities that are not easily categorized at present. We therefore describe here, at the outset, three comprehensive, statutory small entity size standards that encompass entities that could be directly affected by the proposals under consideration. As of 2009, small businesses represented 99.9% of the 27.5 million businesses in
89. Wireless Telecommunications Carriers (except Satellite). Since 2007, the SBA has recognized wireless firms within this new, broad, economic census category. Prior to that time, such firms were within the now-superseded categories of Paging and Cellular and Other Wireless Telecommunications. Under the present and prior categories, the SBA has deemed a wireless business to be small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. For this category census data 2007 show that there were 11,163 establishments that operated for the entire year. Of this total, 10,791 establishments had employment of 999 or fewer employees and 372 had employment of 1000 employees or more. Thus, under this category and the associated small business size standard, the Commission estimates that the majority of wireless telecommunications carriers (except satellite) are small entities that may be affected by our proposed action
90. Similarly, according to Commission data, 413 carriers reported that they were engaged in the provision of wireless telephony, including cellular service, Personal Communications Service (PCS), and Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) Telephony services. Of these, an estimated 261 have 1,500 or fewer employees and 152 have more than 1,500 employees. Consequently, the Commission estimates that approximately half or more of these firms can be considered small. Thus, using available data, we estimate that the majority of wireless firms can be considered small.
91. Wireless Telephony. Wireless telephony includes cellular, personal communications services, and specialized mobile radio telephony carriers. As noted, the SBA has developed a small business size standard for Wireless Telecommunications Carriers (except Satellite). Under the SBA small business size standard, a business is small if it has 1,500 or fewer employees. According to Trends in Telephone Service data, 413 carriers reported that they were engaged in wireless telephony. Of these, an estimated 261 have 1,500 or fewer employees and 152 have more than 1,500 employees. Therefore, more than half of these entities can be considered small.
92. Cellular Licenses. The Cellular Radiotelephone (Cellular) Service is in the 824-849 and 869-894 MHz spectrum range. The most common use of cellular spectrum is mobile voice and data services, including cell phone, text messaging, and Internet.
93. The Commission adopted initial rules governing allocation of spectrum for commercial Cellular service, including the establishment of two channel blocks (Blocks A and B), in 1981. To issue cellular licenses, the
94. The licensee of the initial license was provided a five-year period to expand coverage within the CMA. The area timely built out during that five-year period became the licensee's initial Cellular Geographic Service Area (CGSA), while any area not built out by the five-year mark was automatically relinquished for re-licensing on a site-by-site basis by the Commission.
95. The Commission established a two phase licensing approach for areas that reverted back to the
96. Broadband Personal Communications Service. The broadband personal communications services (PCS) spectrum is divided into six frequency blocks designated A through F, and the Commission has held auctions for each block. The Commission initially defined a "small business" for C- and F-Block licenses as an entity that has average gross revenues of
97. In 2001, the Commission completed the auction of 422 C and F Block Broadband PCS licenses (Auction 35). Of the 35 winning bidders in that auction, 29 claimed small or very small businesses status. Subsequent events concerning that Auction, including judicial and agency determinations, resulted in only a portion of those C and F Block licenses being available for grant. The Commission completed an auction of 188 C Block licenses and 21 F Block licenses in 2005. Of the 24 winning bidders in that auction, 16 claimed small business status and won 156 licenses. In 2007, the Commission completed an auction of licenses in the
98. Advanced Wireless Services. In 2006, the Commission conducted its first auction of Advanced Wireless Services licenses in the 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz bands (AWS-1), designated as Auction 66. For the AWS-1 bands, the Commission has defined a "small business" as an entity with average annual gross revenues for the preceding three years not exceeding
99. Lower 700 MHz Band Licenses. The Commission previously adopted criteria for defining three groups of small businesses for purposes of determining their eligibility for special provisions such as bidding credits. The Commission defined a "small business" as an entity that, together with its affiliates and controlling principals, has average gross revenues not exceeding
100. An auction of 740 licenses was conducted in 2002 (one license in each of the 734 MSAs/RSAs and one license in each of the six Economic Area Groupings (EAGs). Of the 740 licenses available for auction, 484 licenses were won by 102 winning bidders. Seventy-two of the winning bidders claimed small business, very small business, or entrepreneur status and won a total of 329 licenses. A second auction commenced on
101. In 2007, the Commission reexamined its rules governing the 700 MHz band in the 700 MHz Second Report and Order. An auction of A, B and E block licenses in the Lower 700 MHz band was held in 2008. Twenty winning bidders claimed small business status. Thirty three winning bidders claimed very small business status.
102. Upper 700 MHz Band Licenses. In the 700 MHz Second Report and Order, the Commission revised its rules regarding Upper 700 MHz band licenses. In 2008, the Commission conducted Auction 73 in which C and D block licenses in the Upper 700 MHz band were available. Three winning bidders claimed very small business status.
103. Specialized Mobile Radio. The Commission adopted small business size standards for the purpose of determining eligibility for bidding credits in auctions of Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) geographic area licenses in the 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands. The Commission defined a "small business" as an entity that, together with its affiliates and controlling principals, has average gross revenues not exceeding
104. The auction of the 1,053 800 MHz SMR licenses for the General Category channels was conducted in 2000. Eleven bidders who won 108 licenses for the General Category channels in the 800 MHz SMR band qualified as small or very small businesses. In an auction completed in 2000, a total of 2,800 Economic Area licenses in the lower 80 channels of the 800 MHz SMR service were awarded. Of the 22 winning bidders, 19 claimed small or very small business status and won 129 licenses. Thus, combining all three auctions, 41 winning bidders for geographic licenses in the 800 MHz SMR band claimed to be small businesses.
105. In addition, there are numerous incumbent site-by-site SMR licensees and licensees with extended implementation authorizations in the 800 and 900 MHz bands. We do not know how many firms provide 800 MHz or 900 MHz geographic area SMR pursuant to extended implementation authorizations, nor how many of these providers have annual revenues not exceeding
106. Wireless Communications Services. This service can be used for fixed, mobile, radiolocation, and digital audio broadcasting satellite uses. The Commission defined "small business" for the wireless communications services (WCS) auction as an entity with average gross revenues of
107. The Commission conducted an auction of geographic area licenses in the WCS service in 1997. In the auction, seven bidders that qualified as very small business entities won licenses, and one bidder that qualified as a small business entity won a license.
109. Scheduled Passenger Air Transportation. Air transportation entities, specifically airlines, are implicated only to the extent that the Commission adopts the proposal to permit airlines to provide mobile wireless services. This proposal would give airlines the choice of whether to enable mobile communications services using an Airborne Access System, as well as the specific services to enable. All elements of the Airborne Access Systems and any permissible airborne mobile devices would be subject to applicable
D. Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements
111. Under the Commission's proposal, all Airborne Access System devices must comply with technical and operational requirements, including: Measures that may be taken to limit power include, but are not necessarily limited to, mobile power restrictions, aircraft picocell power restrictions, network control unit power and/or technology limitations, altitude restrictions, and methods to prevent an airborne mobile phone from accessing the ground-based commercial mobile networks.
112. While our proposals would require small airline businesses to modify their existing part 87 licenses if they want to provide mobile communications services on aircraft, airlines are not required to install and operate mobile communications services on aircraft Licensees would be permitted to contract with third parties to install equipment for or offer mobile communications services on aircraft. In addition, modifying existing aircraft fleet or station licenses to include proposed mobile communications services on aircraft use should not impose significant administrative burdens on airlines, and they would have the opportunity for an additional revenue stream. On balance, this would constitute a significant benefit for small business.
E. Steps Taken To Minimize Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities, and Significant Alternatives Considered
113. The RFA requires an agency to describe any significant, specifically small business, 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 or reporting requirements under the rule for 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 small entities.
114. In the NPRM, the Commission proposes that domestic aircraft operators that want to offer mobile communications services on aircraft be required to file for a modification of their existing aircraft station or fleet licenses to include the newly designated use. Also, terrestrial commercial mobile providers would have the option of entering into permissive commercial contracts with airlines to provide access to wireless subscriber services.
115. The NPRM specifically solicits alternative licensing proposals, especially those that would not incur significant and undue adverse impacts on small entities. We also specifically solicit comment regarding the affect our proposals may have on small business entities that may lack the financial and technical resources necessary to deploy mobile communications services on aircraft. We seek comment on factors that may minimize any undue impacts on parties, including small and very small businesses, that may be affected by our proposals. For example, we request comment on whether our proposals have a disproportionate financial impact on small businesses, e.g. smaller air carriers as compared to larger entities, e.g. large airlines. Will our proposals affect the ability of small businesses to compete with larger entities that may more easily afford to deploy an Airborne Access System? If so, we request comment on whether there are factors that could offset such impact. For example, could a small business enter into business agreements with other entities that would make the provision of mobile communications services more feasible for such entities? We seek comment on how to lessen potential burdens on these small carriers, including any factors or arrangements that could make the provision of mobile communications services more practical for small entities.
F. Federal Rules That May Duplicate, Overlap or Conflict With the Proposed Rules
116. 14 CFR 91.21, 121.306, 125.204, and 135.144.
V. Paperwork Reduction Act
117. This NPRM seeks comment on potential new or revised information collection requirement(s). If the Commission adopts any new or revised information collection requirement(s), the Commission will publish a notice in the
VI. Ordering Clauses
118. Accordingly, it is ordered that, pursuant to the authority contained in sections 1, 4(i), 11, 303(r), 303(y), 308, 309, and 332 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 151, 154(i), 161, 303(r), 303(y), 308, 309, and 332, this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is hereby adopted.
List of Subjects
47 CFR Parts 22, 24, 27, 87, and 90
47 CFR Parts 22, 24, 27, and 90
Communications common carriers.
47 CFR Parts 22, 24, 87, and 90
47 CFR Part 87
47 CFR Part 24
47 CFR Part 90
Business and industry.
For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the
PART 22--PUBLIC MOBILE SERVICES
1. The authority citation for part 22 continues to read as follows:
Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 222, 303, 309, and 332.
2. Section 22.925 is revised to read as follows:
Devices using frequencies licensed under this subpart are prohibited from operating onboard airborne aircraft except as authorized by
PART 24--PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS SERVICES
3. The authority citation for part 24 continues to read as follows:
Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 301, 302, 303, 309, and 332.
4. Section 24.3 is revised to read as follows:
PCS licensees may provide any mobile communications service on their assigned spectrum. Fixed services may be provided on a co-primary basis with mobile operations. Broadcasting as defined in the Communications Act is prohibited. Devices using frequencies licensed under this rule part are prohibited from operating onboard airborne aircraft except as authorized by
PART 27--MISCELLANEOUS WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS SERVICES
5. The authority citation for part 27 continues to read as follows:
Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 301, 302(a), 303, 307, 309, 332, 336, 337, 1403, 1404, and 1451 unless otherwise noted.
6. Section 27.2 is amended by revising paragraph (a) and adding paragraph (f) to read as follows:
(a) Miscellaneous wireless communications services. Except as provided in paragraph (b), (d), or (e) of this section and subject to technical and other rules contained in this part, a licensee in the frequency bands specified in
* * * * *
(f) Devices using frequencies licensed under this part are prohibited from operating onboard airborne aircraft except as authorized by
PART 87--AVIATION SERVICES
7. The authority citation for part 87 continues to read as follows:
Authority: 47 U.S.C. 154, 303 and 307 (e) unless otherwise noted.
8. Add SUBSEC 87.205 through 87.207 and the undesignated center heading "Airborne Mobile Service" to Subpart F to read as follows:
Subpart F--Aircraft Stations
* * * * *
Airborne Mobile Service
87.205 Scope of service.
87.207 Technical requirements.
Aircraft Station Licensees shall be permitted to provide mobile broadband service under this rule part subject to the following conditions:
(a) Mobile broadband services shall be authorized only within aircraft cabins;
(b) Mobile broadband service shall be authorized only over the frequencies designated in
(c) Aircraft station licensees must utilize an airborne access system that complies with the technical rules set forth in
(d) The Airborne Mobile Service shall be authorized only at altitudes above 3,048 meters ( [approx.] 10,000) feet. No transmissions shall be authorized over designated frequencies below this altitude.
The frequencies 698-757 MHz, 775-787 MHz, SMR spectrum within the bands (806-824 MHz, 851-869 MHz, 896-901 MHz, and 935-940 MHz), 824-849 MHz, 869-894 MHz, 1850-1915 MHz, 1930-1995 MHz, 1710-1755 MHz, 2000-2020 MHz, 2110-2155 MHz, 2180-2200 MHz, 2305-2320 MHz, and 2345-2360 MHz are authorized for airborne in-cabin use consistent with the requirements and
Airborne access systems on licensed aircraft must:
(a) Utilize only frequencies authorized in
(b) Manage all in-cabin transmissions from mobile devices transmitting on frequencies listed in
(c) Prevent in-cabin mobile devices transmitting on frequencies listed in
(d) Ensure that each transmitting component of the airborne access system maintains minimal emissions, as measured outside the aircraft cabin, to ensure that airborne operations do not cause harmful interference to terrestrial mobile networks;
(e) Otherwise comply with technical rules applicable to terrestrial base stations operating on the frequencies listed in
PART 90--PRIVATE LAND MOBILE RADIO SERVICES
9. The authority citation for part 90 continues to read as follows:
Authority: Sections 4(i), 11, 303(g), 303(r), and 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 154(i), 161, 303(g), 303(r), and 332(c)(7), and Title VI of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, Pub. L. 112-96, 126
10. Section 90.423 is revised to read as follows:
Devices using frequencies licensed under this rule part are prohibited from operating onboard airborne aircraft except as authorized by
[FR Doc. 2013-31203 Filed 1-14-14;
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P
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