The FCC voted to propose opening up even more spectrum for 5G, allowing sharing of spectrum now used for weather forecasting by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was a unanimous decision to take the first step toward reallocating spectrum for shared use between those federal users and non-federal flexible-use wireless.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) approved at Thursday’s (May 9, 2019) FCC open meeting proposes to reallocate that spectrum (1675-1680 MHz) on a co-primary basis, meaning both weather forecasting and wireless will have equal stature. The band can be used for terrestrial fixed and mobile (except aeronautical mobile) on a shared basis, with appropriate technical rules to protect each.
The FCC is also seeking comment on other ways the NOAA weather data can be delivered to those now receiving it via earth stations using the 1675-1680 MHz band. In particular, the Commission seeks comment on how to implement a sharing framework that would create opportunities for commercial operations in this band while also protecting incumbent federal users. Finally, the Commission asks about possible alternative methods of providing access to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather data to other non-federal users that currently receive such data via earth stations they operate in this band.
Wireless broadband is a critical component of economic growth, job creation, public safety, and global competitiveness, and the demand for spectrum continues to increase. As shown by today’s action, the Commission is continuing to work to identify and make available additional spectrum to meet the growing demand.
“Today, the FCC joined together to take an important step to free up vital mid-band spectrum and help secure American digital superiority in 5G,” said Doug Smith, CEO of Ligado Networks, which had sought the move as part of its mid-band 5G strategy, which will require 40 MHz of spectrum. “Under chairman Pai’s leadership, this FCC is working hard to identify opportunities to make mid-band spectrum available, and the NPRM on 1675–1680 MHz will help deliver on the promise of developing and deploying 5G in the U.S. as soon as possible. We applaud the Commissioners’ commitment to make our nation first in next-generation technologies through a free market approach that encourages private sector investment and innovation.”
“The FCC’s action today proposing to reallocate the 1675–1680 MHz band for shared federal and non-federal commercial use is another positive step in the effort to make available more mid-band spectrum for private sector use,” said Free State Foundation president Randolph May. “It should not go unremarked that the FCC’s action today is an important ‘infrastructure’ measure — just as much as a federal grant to build a highway or road — because the availability of spectrum, especially mid-band spectrum, is necessary to support the investment in transmitters, small antennas, tower structures, terrestrial links, and so forth that will comprise the guts of 5G network infrastructure.”
Public Knowledge also praised the move: “Consumer demand for wireless services continues to grow, and spectrum that can easily be cleared and used for mobile use has been exhausted,” said PK senior policy counsel Phillip Berenbroick. “Today’s proposal to permit sharing of the 1675-1680 MHz band correctly recognizes the need to more efficiently use scarce spectrum resources to meet this consumer demand, while also ensuring federal users can accomplish their missions. Public Knowledge supports the NPRM and looks forward to weighing in on the details of the 1675-1680 MHz band plan.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted rules to clear spectrum in the 95 GHz to 3 TeraHz frequencies for experimental use in order to ecnourage technological breakthroughs in communications. It might even set the stage for 6G and beyond. The FCC will issue experimental licenses for up to 10 years and open 21.2 GHz of spectrum in that range for testing unlicensed devices.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai invited NYU Wireless Professor Ted Rappaport, who was instrumental in conducting ground-breaking millimeter wave research, to present his institution’s findings thus far on the opportunities afforded by the spectrum bands above 95 GHz, where “science fiction will become reality,” Rappaport told the commission.
The applications that become possible at these higher frequencies are kind of mind-blowing, he said. With so much bandwidth and wider bandwidth channels, you can start having data rates that approach the bandwidth needed to provide wireless cognition, where the computations of the human brain at those data rates could actually be sent on the fly over wireless. As such, you could have drones or robotics receive in real time the kind of perception and cognition that the human brain could do.
The conventional wisdom is that as you go higher in frequency, you get more loss. “That’s only if you use an omnidirectional antenna, the old way of doing cellular 10 and 20 years ago. When you start using directional antennas, what happens is, you actually do better as you go higher in frequency for a given power level and a given antenna physical size,” Rappaport said.
The FCC’s Spectrum Horizons First Report and Order creates a new category of experimental licenses for use of frequencies between 95 GHz and 3 THz. These licenses will give innovators the flexibility to conduct experiments lasting up to 10 years, and to more easily market equipment during the experimental period, according to the FCC.
The item also makes a total of 21.2 gigahertz of spectrum available for use by unlicensed devices. The Commission selected bands with propagation characteristics that will permit large numbers of unlicensed devices to use the spectrum, while limiting the potential for interference to existing governmental and scientific operations in the above-95 GHz bands, such as space research and atmospheric sensing.
The First Report and Order provides unprecedented opportunities for new experimental and unlicensed use in the frequencies above 95 GHz and will help ensure that the United States stays at the forefront of wireless innovation. Moreover, study of these uses could ultimately lead to further rulemaking actions and additional licensing opportunities within the Spectrum Horizons bands.
“Today, we take big steps towards making productive use of this spectrum,” Pai said in his statement. “We allocate a massive 21 gigahertz for unlicensed use and we create a new category of experimental licenses. This will give innovators strong incentives to develop new technologies using these airwaves while also protecting existing uses.”