FCC Moves to Update 60 GHz Short-Range Radar Operations

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The FCC voted to open a rulemaking to update its rules governing short-range radar operations in the 60 GHz band. The goal is to enable higher-power radar use while not creating harmful interference to current licensees. 

Radar sensing technology used to be devoted to military use, detecting the presence, distance, and direction of objects by sending out pulses of “high-frequency electromagnetic waves,” according to Rosenworcel. But now, there’s been progress over the years and it’s currently being used in all kinds of commercial applications.

“Radar sensing technology is being used to support the development of gesture control, which will allow you to turn on the lights or turn up the heat with a flick of the wrist,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel during Tuesday’s vote. “It’s being used to develop new systems for real-time traffic management that can reduce congestion and increase roadway safety.” She cited other applications as well, including the development of robotics to improve workplace safety, medical imaging and monitoring, and checking children left in hot cars and triggering alerts that could save their lives.

Rosenworcel said the agency’s technical rules for 60 GHz are holding back progress. “That’s because our rules for this band confine radar manufacturers to overly conservative power limits and other dated requirements.”

The Commission launched a rulemaking to create more opportunities for higher-power radar use while ensuring new services could coexist with licensed and authorized band users like WiGig, according to Rosenworcel. The agency was helped by the 60 GHz Coexistence Study Group, which consists of stakeholders with interests in unlicensed technology and communications device systems.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking also seeks comments on the use of sensing technology such as Listen-Before-Talk to allow transmission at the same power level as other unlicensed devices in the band.  

Under current FCC rules, unlicensed devices that operate in the 57 to 71 GHz band generally include devices such as wireless local area networking devices, outdoor fixed point-to-point communication links, and radar devices that are used in fixed applications or mobile short-range interactive motion sensor uses. The action seeks to open the door for additional technological uses in the 57 to 64 GHz portion of that band while asking questions about the applicability in the broader 57 to 71 GHz, and proposing rules and seeking comment on how best to ensure coexistence among new and existing users. 

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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