FCC Proposes Opening Up 70/80/90 GHz Bands

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The FCC voted Tuesday to begin a proceeding to provide more spectrum for 5G wireless backhaul and to make it easier to deploy broadband on planes and ships. The agency hopes to make more efficient use of additional millimeter-band spectrum in the 71–76 GHz, 81–86 GHz, 92–94 GHz, and 94.1–95 GHz bands.

The item approved in a non-controversial 5-0 vote proposes allowing smaller antennas to be used in the bands. The Commission hopes to lower costs, facilitate network densification, and help support wireless 5G backhaul.  

The changes could open up competition for broadband in aircraft, according to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. During the vote, she said: “It is fair to say many of us hope to return to the skies soon and when we do, one feature Americans want to see is the ability to reliably [get internet service] at 35,000 feet.” 

The 70/80/90 GHz bands are unused or underused in large parts of the country with current use of the spectrum primarily concentrated along a few high-traffic routes, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “As we pursue deployment, it is important to remember that networks rely on many components to function optimally. You don’t need a wireless connection between your smartphone and the base station. You need reliable backhaul from the edge of the network to the core. That’s where these bands can be helpful,” Pai said during the vote.

In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the agency seeks comment on mitigation measures to protect incumbent band users, including federal users, from harmful interference.   

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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