FCC Wireless Geographic License Areas

The FCC has a long history of using a variety of territory sizes ranging from the 734 Cellular Market Areas (“CMAs”) to a single national license. The chart below summarizes the relationships of the major FCC geographical license areas:

FCC-Geographic-License-Areas

Source: FCC

These license areas are explained in more detail below:

CELLULAR MARKET AREAS (“CMAs”) – 734 total areas.Composed of 306 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and 428 Rural Service Areas (RSAs). Used for:

  • Cellular Radiotelephone Service – 47 CFR § 22.909 (824 to 894 MHz: Blocks A-B); and
    • Interactive Video and Data Service (IVDS) – 47 CFR § 95.803 (Segments: A (218.0 to 218.5 MHz) and B (218.5 to 219.0 MHz)).

“TRADING AREA” DIVISIONS

  • Basic Trading Areas (“BTAs”) – 491 total areas. Used for:
    • Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS) – 47 CFR § 21.924 (2150 to 2162, 2596 to 2680 MHz: Channels 1, 2(2A), E1-E4, F1-F4, H1-H3)
    • Narrowband PCS – 47 CFR § 24.102 (901 to 902, 930 to 931 MHz: Channels 25 to 26);
    • Broadband PCS – 47 CFR § 24.202 (1850 to 1990 MHz: Blocks C-F); and
    • Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS) – 47 CFR § 101.1007 (27.5 to 31.3 GHz: Blocks A-B).
  • Major Trading Areas (“MTAs”) – 52 total areas. Used for:
    • Narrowband PCS – 47 CFR § 24.102 (901 to 902, 930 to 931 MHz, 940 to 941 MHz: Channels 18 to 24);
    • Broadband PCS – 47 CFR § 24.202 (1850 to 1990 MHz: Blocks A-B); and
    • Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) 900 MHz – 47 CFR § 90.661 (896 to 901 MHz and 935 to 940 MHz: Channel Blocks A-T).
  • Regional PCS Areas (“RPCs”). Aggregation of MTAs into 5 regions. Used for:
    • Narrowband PCS – 47 CFR § 24.102 (901 to 902, 930 to 931 MHz, 940 to 941 MHz: Channels 18 to 24);
    • Broadband PCS – 47 CFR § 24.202 (1850 to 1990 MHz: Blocks A-B); and
    • Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) 900 MHz – 47 CFR § 90.661 (896 to 901 MHz and 935 to 940 MHz: Channel Blocks A-T).

“ECONOMIC AREA” DIVISIONS

  • (Basic) Economic Areas (“BEAs” or more commonly “EAs”) – 176 total areas. Used for:
    • General Wireless Communications Service (GWCS) – 47 CFR § 26.102 (4660-4685 MHz: Channel Blocks A-E)
    • Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) 800 MHz – 47 CFR § 90.681 & 90.903 (806-821/851-866 MHz: Spectrum Blocks A-C);
    • 220 MHz – 47 CFR § 90.761 (220-222 MHz: Channel Assignments A-E);
    • Location and Monitoring Service (LMS) – 47 CFR § 90.7 (3 Spectrum Blocks (1) 904.000-909.750 MHz and 927.750-928.000 MHz; (2) 919.750-921.750 MHz and 927.500-927.750 MHz; and (3) 921.750-927.250 MHz and 927.250-927.500 MHz);
    • 38.6-40.0 GHz Band (39 GHz) – 47 CFR § 101.64 (38.6-40.0 GHz: Channels 1-14 with paired blocks A-B);
    • AWS-1; and
    • 700 MHz (portions).
  • Major Economic Areas (“MEAs”). Aggregation of BEAs (EAs) into 52 regions. Used for:
    • Wireless Communications Service (WCS) – 47 CFR § 27.6 (Paired Channel Blocks A (2305 to 2310 MHz and 2350 to 2355 MHz) and B (2310 to 2315/2355 to 2360 MHz));
    • 929 MHz Paging – 47 CFR § 90.493 (Channels A-L: 929.0125 to 929.9625 MHz); and
    • 931 MHz Paging – 47 CFR § 22.531 (Channels AA-BK: 931.0125 to 931.9875 MHz).
  • Regional Economic Area Groupings (“REAGs”). Aggregation of BEAs/EAs into six regions. Used for:
    • 220 MHz – 47 CFR § 90.761 (220 to 222 MHz: Channel Assignments F-J); and
    • 700 MHz – 47 CFR § 27.6 (746 to 764 and 776 to 794 MHz: Blocks A-D).
  • Regional Economic Areas (“REAs”). Aggregation of MEAs into 12 regions. Used for:
    • Wireless Communications Service (WCS) – 47 CFR § 27.6 (Unpaired Channel Blocks C (2315-2320 MHz) and D (2345-2350 MHz)).
  • VHF Public Coast Station Areas (“VCPs”). 42 areas. Used for:
    • VHF Public Coast Stations 47 CFR § 80.371(c)(1)(B).

OTHER GEOGRAPHIC GROUPINGS

  • Television Market Areas (“TMAs”). 210 television markets. These are almost always referred to as “DMAs” (Designated Market Areas), but DMAs are a technically a Nielsen Holdings term. Used for:
    • Determining areas for the cable must-carry/retransmission consent election. (47 CFR § 76.55)
    • Cable Television Service 47 CFR 76 Subpart D
    • Children’s Television Programming Report (Form 398)
  • Emergency Alert Local Areas (“EASs”). Used for:
    • Emergency Alert System 47 CFR § 11.21
  • Nationwide Area (“NWAs”). Used for:
    • Narrowband PCS – 47 CFR § 24.102 (901 to 902 MHz, 930 to 931 MHz and 940 to 941 MHz: Channels 1 to 11).
  • Site-based licenses. In the past, the FCC issued licenses for certain services such as AMTS based on a specific location of the transmitter. The licensee had exclusive use with a certain radius. Most spectrum with site-based licenses has since been auctioned on the basis of geographic areas, with carve-outs for the prior site-based licenses who were grandfathered.