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2.5 GHz Spectrum: What are EBS & BRS Licenses?

The 2.5 GHz band is divided into two radio services, Educational Broadband Services (EBS) and Broadband Radio Service (BRS). The band consists of thirty-three 5.5 or 6.0 MHz Channels, of which twenty are for EBS and thirteen are for BRS. The EBS band is the successor to Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS), a 1960s era radio service designed for educational broadcast television. The BRS band is the successor to Multi-point Distribution Service (MDS), a 1990s era radio service designed for wireless cable. The current band plan is shown below.


In 2005, the FCC approved changes to the rules to allow the use of EBS and BRS licenses for two-way, mobile and fixed data services. FCC regulations allow EBS licensees to lease their spectrum rights for commercial uses, including broadband access. The majority of the spectrum capacity of most of these licenses has been leased to commercial wireless operators. 4G protocols, including WIMAX and LTE, are supported by a wide variety of equipment manufacturers. The spectrum can also be used to support more specialized networks, including utility smart grid applications, government organizations, public safety, etc.

FCC rules require that a limited portion of EBS spectrum must also be used for educational purposes, and spectrum leases generally require commercial lessees to support educational use of the license.
While the BRS band has been completely auctioned, many areas, especially in rural parts of the country, are not covered or are not covered by the maximum of 20 EBS channels. There are approximately 2,200 incumbent licensees, and during recent years new EBS license applications have generally been denied by the FCC.
The FCC is reviewing a proposal, made by the Catholic Technology Network (CTN), the National EBS Association (NEBSA), the Wireless Communications Association International (WCAI), and the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network, Inc. (HITN) to expand the coverage of many existing EBS licenses and grant new EBS licenses to cover areas that are not currently fully covered by all EBS channels. If the FCC approves this proposal, most EBS licenses will expand.

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