FCC Rejects EEI, APCO Petitions to Stay 6 GHz Order

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UPDATE The FCC said “no” to incumbents on the 6 GHz band who object to the agency’s plans to open up the band for unlicensed use. Inside Towers reported the Edison Electric Institute and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International, Inc. and other industry representatives don’t believe the FCC plan will protect their critical communications from harmful interference. They petitioned the agency to stay the Order released this April.

The Commission sought public comment on those requests and rejected them Thursday. The FCC said over two and a half years, it sought input from broadcasters, wireless internet service providers, cable operators, content distributors, public safety entities, utilities, and other stakeholders.

The agency reiterated that demand for wireless spectrum continues to grow. That’s why it evaluated whether spectrum between 3.7 and 24 GHz could be made available for wireless broadband services, including unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band (5.925-7.125 GHz). The 6 GHz band is particularly attractive for unlicensed operations, the Commission noted, because it is near spectrum designated for U-NII use and could, among other things, allow those devices to operate with wider channel bandwidths and higher data dates with increased flexibility. 

The agency recognized any unlicensed use in the band would need to protect incumbent users operating in the band—including fixed service, fixed satellite service, and fixed and mobile broadcast auxiliary services. The Commission adopted rules to authorize two types of unlicensed operations in the 6 GHz band: standard-power operations and low-power indoor operations. For standard-power operations, the Commission provided that, in two portions of the band, standard-power access points will operate under the control of an automated frequency coordination (AFC) system.

For low-power indoor operations, the Commission found the use of an AFC unnecessary. The Order adopted rules limiting low-power indoor access points to operate only at indoor locations across the entire 6 GHz band.

EEI sought only to stay the effectiveness of the rules that apply to low-power indoor devices. EEI believes that the record shows harmful interference will occur. APCO sought to stay the rule for both low- and standard- power— also for interference concerns.

Thursday, the FCC said EEI and APCO failed to show their arguments would succeed. The agency also said both trade groups put forth arguments about the prospect of harmful interference “based on technical studies in the record that the Commission has already considered and rejected.” It called the alleged harms “speculative” and “not imminent.”

Stakeholders such as Apple and Broadcom contend that before these devices can be brought to market, manufacturers must obtain rule interpretations and the Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology must develop test procedures. This process will be disrupted if a stay is granted and companies will be discouraged from making investments in developing 6 GHz products, according to the agency. “Consequently, a stay will delay companies from receiving the benefit of the investment they have made in developing 6 GHz products and delay the development of additional 6 GHz unlicensed products,” said the FCC in its decision.

Overall, the FCC determined that granting the stay would not be in the public interest. At least one of the parties is pursuing the matter in federal appeals court.

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