FCC Votes 5-0 To Push Spectrum Boundaries

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fcc2 (1)“The decision we make Thursday could actually be the most important decision this commission makes this year,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told members of Congress during an oversight hearing on Tuesday.

Yesterday in a 5-to-0 vote, the FCC adopted new rules for wireless broadband operations in frequencies above 24 GHz, making the United States the first country in the world to make this spectrum available for next generation wireless services. The FCC issued a statement saying “these rules set a strong foundation for the rapid advancement to next-generation 5G networks and technologies in the United States.”

The vote was lauded by telecom-based industry associations across the spectrum.

CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker said,“Today’s vote by the FCC to make high band spectrum available for 5G was a clear victory for Americans’ mobile-first lives. America is the world’s 4G LTE leader and, in the race to 5G, we are positioned well with this spectrum to fuel the next generation of networks, devices and apps. We applaud the FCC Chairman and Commissioners for taking this important step of making more spectrum available for Americans.” 

This high-frequency spectrum will support innovative new uses enabled by fiber-fast wireless speeds and extremely low latency.  While 5G technologies are still under development, today’s action by the Commission to put rules in place, according to the FCC “will provide vital clarity for business investment in this area.”

The new rules open up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum for flexible, mobile and fixed use wireless broadband – 3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum. The rules adopted today create a new Upper Microwave Flexible Use service in the 28 GHz (27.5-28.35 GHz), 37 GHz (37-38.6 GHz), and 39 GHz (38.6-40 GHz) bands, and a new unlicensed band at 64-71 GHz.

These rules balance different spectrum access approaches, including exclusive use licensing, shared access, and unlicensed access, in order to meet a variety of different needs and use cases. The Commission also adopted other flexible service and technical rules to allow new technologies and innovations to evolve and flourish without “needlessly prescriptive” regulations.

The FCC said the ruling “adopts effective sharing schemes to ensure that diverse users – including federal and non-federal, satellite and terrestrial, and fixed and mobile –can co-exist and expand.”

The FCC also adopted a set of rules that “seek to apply the flexible use service and technical rules adopted today to another 18 GHz of spectrum encompassing 8 additional high-frequency bands, and seeks comment on a variety of other issues, including refinements to the performance requirements and mobile spectrum holdings policies, and the sharing framework adopted for the 37-37.6 GHz band.”

With the adoption of these rules, the FCC said, it “has created a runway for U.S. companies to launch the technologies that will harness 5G’s fiber-fast capabilities.”

Jonathan Adelstein, CEO and President of the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) said, “The Wireless Infrastructure Association is pleased that the FCC unanimously voted to open up more spectrum for the next generation of mobile communications, leading the world as the first nation to identify high-band spectrum for mobile wireless use. We also commend the FCC for exploring additional spectrum in its Further Notice. As the wireless industry continues to develop the technologies that will lead to the widespread deployment of 5G networks, it is critical that we leverage as much spectrum for flexible use as we can. This move to open up new “Spectrum Frontiers” positions our wireless industry to continue its leadership in the rapid advancement of wireless services consumers are demanding.”

The vote as recorded per commissioner:

  • Chairman Wheeler, Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel approving.
  • Commissioner Pai approving in part and concurring in part.
  • Commissioner O’Rielly approving in part and dissenting in part.
  • Chairman Wheeler, Commissioners Clyburn, Rosenworcel, Pai and O’Rielly issuing separate statements.

“NATE applauds FCC Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners Clyburn, O’Rielly, Pai and Rosenworcel for their proactive leadership in helping pave the way to make 5G networks a reality in the United States,” stated Executive Director Todd Schlekeway.  “NATE member companies have developed and maintained every generation of communications networks and will be on the front lines once again in order to help make 5G networks a reality in the future,” added Schlekeway.

Wheeler noted, the increase in speed will at minimum be 10 times faster than 4G LTE, boasting speeds resembling those carried on fiber and “responsiveness less than one-thousandth of a second, which enables real-time communication; and network capacity multiples of what is available today.”

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