FCC Plans April Vote on 6 GHz Use

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Wednesday circulated among his colleagues draft rules to allow unlicensed devices to operate in the 6 GHz band. The proposed rules would make 1,200 MHz of spectrum available for unlicensed use. Unlicensed devices would share this spectrum with incumbent licensed services under rules written to protect licensed services. The Chairman wants the rules to be voted on by the Commission at the agency’s April 23 meeting.

“From WiFi routers to home appliances, Americans’ everyday use of devices that connect to the internet over unlicensed spectrum has exploded,” said Pai. “That trend will only continue. Cisco projects that nearly 60 percent of global mobile data traffic will be off-loaded to WiFi by 2022.” 

To accommodate that increase in WiFi demand, the FCC is aiming to increase the supply of WiFi spectrum by making the entire 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use. “By doing this, we would effectively increase the amount of spectrum available for WiFi almost by a factor of five,” said Pai. The move would increase network capacity and “help advance even further our leadership in next generation wireless technologies, including 5G.”

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association pushed for the change. WISPA President/CEO Claude Aiken noted there hasn’t been a significant release of unlicensed spectrum for two decades. If the new rule passes, the allocation would make it clear that “the unlicensed ecosystem is no longer an understudy to licensed wireless services. They are co-equals, working together to boost the entire wireless-driven economy, and offering real competition where it is needed,” said Aiken.

CTIA was pleased too. “We support the FCC’s efforts to make the lower half of the 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use and will continue to work closely with the Commission to ensure rigorous protections for licensed services already existing in the band,” said CTIA EVP Brad Gillen. “While the FCC has done a remarkable job freeing up critical licensed spectrum for 5G, the United States faces a growing mid-band deficit. It is essential that the FCC and the administration develop a roadmap to close this deficit before moving forward with plans to give away the full 1200 MHz in the 6 GHz band and further limit our few remaining options.” 

If adopted, the draft Report and Order would authorize two different types of unlicensed operations: standard-power in 850-megahertz of the band and indoor low-power operations over the full 1,200-megahertz available in the 6 GHz band. An automated frequency coordination system would prevent standard power access points from operating where they could cause interference to incumbent services. 

A Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes to permit very low-power devices to operate across the 6 GHz band, to support high data rate applications including high-performance, wearable, augmented-reality and virtual-reality devices. Specifically, the Further Notice would seek comment on making a contiguous 1,200 MHz block of spectrum available for the development of new high-speed, short-range devices and on power levels and other technical and operational measures to avoid causing interference to incumbent services.  

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