As 5G rolls out at faster-than-expected speeds for millions of Americans, over seven out of 10 residents living on US tribal lands continue to live without any access to fixed broadband internet. Vast expanses of these tribal areas still lack a simple cell phone signal.
To tackle this issue, the FCC launched a series of initiatives starting in 2018 aimed at bringing connectivity to rural tribes. They did this by taking a previously under-utilized spectrum – the 2.5 GHz band – and repurposing it for use across the United States in tribal areas.
Most recently, the FCC rolled out the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribe Window, a first-of-its-kind initiative that gave federally recognized rural Native American and Alaska Native Tribes a “priority window” to apply for licenses that allow them to obtain and use this spectrum.
Tribal entities across the United States successfully applied, and are now starting to receive these licenses to finally bring internet connectivity to their communities.
There’s one major roadblock that still stands in the way, and that is, there is no commercially available hardware to take advantage of this spectrum.