FCC Awards Wireless Frequencies to Alaska Tribal Spectrum

Mar 17, 2022 | Alaska Native, Government, News, Telecom & Tech

ATS license map

Areas in teal show coverage of the new FCC wireless license.


On March 15, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted the 2.5 GHz license number WRPT585 to Alaska Tribal Spectrum (ATS), a Native-managed nonprofit. This represents the FCC’s largest single 2.5GHz spectrum award in the country.

Wireless Possibilities

ATS played an instrumental role in making sure that this 2.5 GHz spectrum local wireless network building block was captured for the benefit of all its members. The ATS mission now is to leverage its collective tribal voice, representing almost half of the tribes in Alaska and a quarter of all tribes in the United States, to apply for government funding to create a statewide Alaska Tribal Network (ATN). The ATN will include tribally owned last mile village infrastructure that can connect to existing high-speed satellite service, which would bring broadband and cell service to tens of thousands of presently unserved Alaskans in 103 ATS member communities.

ATS recently applied for a grant from the Native Telecommunications and Information Administration in the US Department of Commerce to use this 2.5GHz spectrum to establish wireless delivery in ninety-six member villages. These last mile networks can connect to existing low Earth orbit OneWeb satellites to provide sustainable, affordable broadband service. Over the next decade, these networks can also be connected to whatever else becomes available, like fiber optic or additional new satellite capacity to provide gigabit speeds.

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“This is really huge news for our tribes,” says Crystal Dushkin, president of the Native Village of Atka. “Access to high-speed internet at unprecedented affordable prices will revolutionize our lives in our rural communities such as our remote village of Atka! This will make possible everything from creating more and better educational opportunities for our students and adults too, and improving communications and opportunities for our local governments, businesses, and individuals, as well as increased capabilities to remote work and more. It will improve the general overall quality of life in our villages and perhaps help us to make our communities even more desirable places to live.”

The wireless ATN design is a collaboration with Dutch Harbor-based OptimERA, which has proven the ATN design in hardened Alaska environments. The ATN allows the tribes to own the networks and be paid by providers for the use of the 2.5 GHz spectrum in their villages. Local tribal networks also offer true mobility with village-wide broadband and cell phone service using a 4G/5G LTE architecture with the ability to roam everywhere in the United States. ATS is not a service provider, but ATS members manage the network standards and policies to ensure a high quality of service.

“This FCC award was a truly tribal effort and represents a key ingredient to enable affordable satellite broadband now across all of Alaska’ s rural communities with tribal network ownership. It also empowers these tribes to maintain their tribal digital sovereignty to control their own digital destiny,” says Hallie Bisset, executive director of the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association and chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband.

The ATN concept was made possible when Alaska tribal entities took advantage of an offer by the FCC to reserve 2.5 GHz radio spectrum in Alaska. Nearly the entire state is covered by members of the ATS nonprofit as well as other tribes that applied for the spectrum.

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