FCC Unanimously Approves Nearly 11 GHz of Spectrum for 5G Millimeter Wave Applications

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously  to open substantial spectrum for  high-speed 5G millimeterwave applications and networks.  Wireless and electronics industry executives joined public interest groups in welcoming the FCC’s unanimous vote to allocate nearly 11 GHz of spectrum in the 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 64-71 GHz bands for licensed and unlicensed  (5G) millimeterwave wireless services of the future.

This high-frequency spectrum will support innovative new uses enabled by fiber-fast wireless speeds and extremely low latency. In recent years,  technological advances have increased the ability to harness millimeterwave (mmW) technology for fixed and mobile wireless communications in
high band spectrum, while demand for connected products and services continues to grow. The actions taken today will allow for the development of innovative services to the benefit of the public.
Specifically, the items adopted today:

  • Makes available an additional 1700 megahertz of millimeter wave (mmW) spectrum for terrestrial 5G wireless use;
  • Maintains the unlicensed use of the 64-71 GHz band, and modifies Part 15 rules to allow
  • unlicensed operation on board most aircraft during flight in the 57-71 GHz band;
  • Maintains spectrum in the 48.2-50.2 GHz and 40-42 GHz bands for satellite use;
  • Adjusts the earth station siting rules in core terrestrial wireless bands to provide incentives to site satellite earth stations in less populated areas while continuing to limit the potential for interference of satellite operations to mobile wireless use in these bands; and
  • Declines to cap the amount of spectrum in the 24 GHz and 47 GHz bands that a bidder can acquire in an auction, and incorporates these two bands into the previously-adopted mmW spectrum threshold for reviewing proposed secondary market transactions.

In addition, the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:

  • Proposes to allow more flexible FSS (fixed-satellite service) use of the 24.75-25.25 GHz band;
  • Seeks comment on another option for terrestrial mmW licensees to meet performance
  • obligations, which could accommodate IoT deployments and other innovative services; and
  • Proposes to eliminate the cap on the amount of spectrum in the 28, 37, and 39 GHz bands that a bidder can acquire in an auction.

Policymakers and mobile phone companies say the next generation of wireless signals needs to be much faster and far more responsive to allow advanced technologies like virtual surgery or controlling machines remotely.

The FCC said the new rules balance spectrum use between new wireless services, satellite operations and federal government use. New 5G networks are expected to provide speeds more than 10 times faster than today’s 4G networks.

The commission voted to make an additional 1700 MHz of millimeter wave spectrum available for terrestrial use and declined to limit the amount of spectrum between 24 GHz and 47 GHz that could be acquired in an auction.

The newly freed spectrum includes 3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum from 27.5-28.35 GHz and 37-40 GHz as well as 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum from 64-71 GHz.

Spectrum in the 48.2-50.2 GHz and 40-42 GHz bands would remain dedicated to satellite use, and the FCC tweaked rules in an effort to attract satellite earth stations to less populated areas.

There is a worldwide race to adopt 5G. South Korea and Japan plan to deploy 5G service by the time they host the Olympics, in 2018 and 2020, respectively. The European Commission, South Korea, Turkey, China, and Japan are all working on 5G research efforts.


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