NAB is cautioning the FCC about the agency’s draft proposal to reallocate spectrum in the 6 GHz band for WiFi. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said the move would increase network capacity and “help advance even further our leadership in next generation wireless technologies, including 5G.” He intends to have the item ready for a vote April 23. However the broadcast trade lobby is concerned that unlicensed operations in the band (5.925-7.125 GHz) could interfere with stations’ 6 GHz use for electronic news gathering.
WiFi operations on the same channel as mobile news gathering operations can easily cause interference if the WiFi device is near a window or outdoors, notes NAB in a filing Monday describing separate calls with Commission staffers. The draft order concludes, however, that “we find the risk of harmful interference to incumbent operations to be insignificant.”
But as NAB observes, the draft order doesn’t say the agency conducted its own analysis to reach that conclusion. The FCC took issue with some of the data presented by broadcasters and states that in the Commission’s “experience,” and “engineering judgment,” it believes any harm is minimal. That leaves broadcasters with no way to evaluate the accuracy of the draft order’s conclusion, according to NAB.
“NAB believes the most appropriate action would be for the Commission, at a minimum, not to allow LPI (low-power, indoor) operations in U-NII-6 where broadcasters currently have the bulk of their authorized mobile operations. This would allow the Commission to make 1,100 MHz of spectrum available for unlicensed – a massive amount – while still preserving 100 MHz for broadcasters to continue to do their most important job without the threat of interference,” says the trade lobby.
NAB also recognizes the agency leadership wants to free up 160 MHz channels specifically. It proposed a solution. “The Commission could still make seven such channels available in 1,120 MHz, while preserving 80 MHz at the top of the 6 GHz band that would not be authorized for LPI but would continue to be available for authorized mobile operations. This is far from a perfect solution for news gatherers but would at least allow broadcasters more security,” says NAB.
In the event the draft order’s conclusions regarding the likelihood of interference are borne out by experience, the Commission can revisit this issue in the near term and authorize LPI operations across the entire band. “But if those conclusions prove overly optimistic, and the Commission proceeds to allow LPI operations across the band, the Commission will never be able to undo the harm it will cause to broadcasters’ news gathering capabilities in this proceeding,” cautions NAB.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief