July 14, 2016 – The FCC today voted unanimously to adopt rules for wireless broadband operations in frequencies above 24 GHz, making the United States the first country in the world to make this spectrum available for next generation wireless services. Building on the flexible approach to spectrum policy that enabled the 4G, these rules set a foundation for the advancement to next-generation 5G networks and technologies.
“Unlike previous mobile generations, 5G is being driven by vertical markets who are calling for more agile and higher capacity connectivity; from smart homes, connected cars and security, to ubiquitous connectivity of fast broadband,” said Mark Ashford – VP North America, Cambridge Broadband Networks. “This will be instrumental in providing the bandwidth to accelerate 5G mobility and the Internet of Things, whilst enabling carriers to deliver higher-capacity wireless broadband in the short term.”
The high-frequency spectrum will support new uses enabled by fast wireless speeds and extremely low latency, which has been promised by 5G proponents. While 5G technologies are still under development, today’s action by the Commission to put rules in place in order to provide clarity for business investment in this area.
These new rules open up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum for flexible, mobile and fixed use wireless broadband – 3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum. The rules adopted today creates a new Upper Microwave Flexible Use service in the 28 GHz (27.5-28.35 GHz), 37 GHz (37-38.6 GHz), and 39 GHz (38.6-40 GHz) bands, and a new unlicensed band at 64-71 GHz.
“Until now, these frequencies have been a largely untapped resource … and are more cost effective to acquire than traditional bands of 24 GHz or below, both per megahertz and in absolute terms, and are widely available throughout the United States,” Ashford said. “The 39GHz band, for example, is available nationwide, including in each of the 175 economic areas. There is an average 800 megahertz of 39GHz available in the 30 largest US cities – enough bandwidth to backhaul the busiest mobile base station or fixed wireless connection.”
The rules balance different spectrum access approaches, including exclusive-use licensing, shared access, and unlicensed access, in order to meet a variety of different needs and use cases. The Commission also adopted other flexible service and technical rules to allow new technologies and innovations to evolve and flourish without needlessly prescriptive regulations.
The Commission attempted to strike a balance between new wireless services, current and future fixed satellite service operations, as well as federal usage. The item adopted sharing schemes designed to ensure that diverse users – including federal and non-federal, satellite and terrestrial, and fixed and mobile –can co-exist and expand.
The Commission also adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which seeks comment on several issues. The FNPRM seeks to apply the flexible use service and technical rules adopted today to another 18 GHz of spectrum encompassing eight additional high-frequency bands, and seeks comment on a variety of other issues, including refinements to the performance requirements and mobile spectrum holdings policies, and the sharing framework adopted for the 37-37.6 GHz band.
“The Wireless Infrastructure Association is pleased that the FCC unanimously voted to open up more spectrum for the next generation of mobile communications, leading the world as the first nation to identify high-band spectrum for mobile wireless use,” said Jonathan Adelstein, CEO and President of the Wireless Infrastructure Association. “We also commend the FCC for exploring additional spectrum in its Further Notice. As the wireless industry continues to develop the technologies that will lead to the widespread deployment of 5G networks, it is critical that we leverage as much spectrum for flexible use as we can.”