Utilities to FCC: Keep Unlicensed Mitts Off 6 GHz

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The Utilities Technology Council is not happy at all with Tuesday’s FCC vote for a rulemaking to open up the 6 GHz band, saying unlicensed use could interfere with critical utility operations.

Unlicensed devices use the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands for products like baby monitors and cordless phones, and Commissioners say those bands are congested and they want to open up the 5.925-7.125 GHz band. Portions of the 6 GHz band are heavily used by licensed incumbents such as utilities, point-to-point microwave links, the Broadcast Auxiliary Service and Cable Television Relay Service. The FCC proposes to allow unlicensed devices to operate using an automated frequency coordination system to avoid causing harmful RF interference from unlicensed devices to licensed users, Inside Towers reported.   

Electric, gas and water utilities rely on the 6 GHz band for their communications that support day-to-day, routine reliability, emergency response and storm restoration, and smart meters, according to UTC. The band provides utilities “and other critical infrastructure industries with the high-speed, long distance wireless communications” required for these essential services, says UTC President/CEO Joy Ditto.   

In a strong rebuke of the FCC’s vote, Ditto said the risk of RF interference to utilities’ networks outweighs the potential benefits from unlicensed use of the band. “We are greatly concerned that the proposed rulemaking as drafted would not sufficiently mitigate potential interference to utility systems from these new unlicensed operations.”

Further, “there appears to be no other reasonable alternative bands for utilities to use. By contrast, there are many other bands that could be used for unlicensed, non-critical commercial operation,” says Ditto. She notes many utilities “were forced to migrate” to 6 GHz because the Commission re-allocated other spectrum bands that utilities and other critical infrastructure industries were already using for critical systems. Comments? Email us.

October 25, 2018