FCC explores shared use of the 42 GHz band

The FCC voted Thursday to launch a proceeding to consider sharing models in 500 megahertz of spectrum in the 42 GHz band. The agency believes its examination could inform how the band might best be used —particularly by smaller wireless service providers— and provide guidance on future uses of sharing models in spectrum management.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who just returned this week from a quick trip to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for an ITU meeting, said that when she took over at the FCC, she believed the agency had overinvested in millimeter wave (mmWave) auctions and done too little to bring mid-band spectrum to market. She set out to change that, launching auctions in the 3.45 GHz and 2.5 GHz bands.

“With those successful mid-band efforts in the rear-view mirror, we are now turning back to millimeter wave,” Rosenworcel said in prepared remarks. “But this time we want to consider something different.  In the 42 GHz band we have 500 megahertz of greenfield airwaves with no federal or commercial incumbencies. So we are putting out ideas. We are exploring non-exclusive access models. This could entail using a technology-based sensing mechanism to help operators actively detect and avoid one another. It could involve non-exclusive nationwide licenses that leverage a database to facilitate coexistence. It could also entail site-based licensing. To get even more out of this effort we ask if our approaches could be combined with shared-used models in other spectrum bands, like the lower 37 GHz band.”

“Our goal here is to come up with a new model to lower barriers, encourage competition and maximize the opportunities in millimeter wave spectrum. In short, it’s time to be creative. I look forward to the record that develops—and then look forward to sharing our creativity with the world.”

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is in effect where the FCC will build a record on the benefits and drawbacks of implementing a shared licensing approach in the 42 GHz band.  The NPRM proposes licensing the 42 GHz band as five 100 megahertz channels and seeks comment on other aspects of implementing a shared licensing approach, including coordination mechanisms, buildout requirements and technical rules.

Michael Calabrese, director of Wireless Future, Open Technology Institute at New America, said his organization agrees that a shared licensing framework is the best use of the 42 GHz band, making this spectrum available to a wide range of fixed wireless ISPs, enterprises and other users.

“Coordinated sharing will be particularly powerful if the FCC adopts a common framework for the lower 37 and 42 GHz bands, giving operators as much as 1100 megahertz of bandwidth,” he said in a statement provided to Fierce. “Fixed wireless deployments are exploding, adding options and competition for high-capacity broadband at lower prices. As open access bands, wide-channel millimeter wave spectrum can fuel and accelerate this positive trend.”





5G mmWave Band n259 (42 GHz)