More spectrum was promised and the FCC is looking to deliver.
The Commission is set to vote on a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) at its next meeting that would kick off an investigation into the use of spectrum between 3.7 GHz and 24 GHz for mobile broadband.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a blog post indicated the move was part of the Commission’s continued efforts to free up more spectrum to meet the “growing demand” for wireless connectivity.
According to a fact sheet, the inquiry would gather information on expanded flexible use in three mid-range bands – 3.7-4.2 GHz; 5.925-6.425 GHz; and 6.425-7.125 GHz – that have already received industry interest both stateside and internationally. The Commission would also ask commenters to flag other bands between 3.7 GHz and 24 GHz that might also be good candidates for flexible use, and ask for feedback on long-term strategies to boost efficiency and flexible use opportunities while protecting existing non-federal services.
“The Commission believes that exploring options to expand access opportunities in mid-band frequencies could further our goal of establishing comprehensive, sound, and flexible spectrum policies, enabling innovations and investment to keep pace with technological advances, and maintaining U.S. leadership in deployment of next generation services in the long term,” the NOI reads. “With this Notice of Inquiry, we hope to obtain relevant data and information not only with respect to the three specific bands of interest, but also with respect to potential commercial requirements in non-federal and shared bands in the 3.7-24 GHz frequency range more broadly, so that we can make more informed and specific proposals in any future proceedings.”
The move to explore bands between 3.7 GHz and 24 GHz comes on the heels of previous action by the Commission to open nearly 11 GHz of licensed and unlicensed spectrum in the super-high frequencies above 24 GHz last year, and another proceeding in 2015 that approved spectrum sharing in the 3.5 GHz CBRS band.
While many major carriers have focused their 5G efforts on making things work at 28 GHz, 37 GHz, and 39 GHz, some – like Sprint – have also been carrying out tests on spectrum in the 14.5 GHz to 15.35 GHz range. This is partly because though millimeter wave spectrum above 24 GHz offers more bandwidth, it also comes with less robust propagation characteristics.
The FCC’s eye on the space from 3.7-4.2 GHz could help bring the United States in line with the international community of telecom regulators. The European Commission’s advisory Radio Spectrum Policy Group has already flagged the 3.4-3.8 GHz band as “suitable for the introduction of 5G-based services.” The United Kingdom is also looking at the upper part of the band, and is moving forward with a rulemaking process to open 3.6-3.8 GHz airwaves for mobile services. Others looking at parts of the 3 GHz band include Ireland (3.475-3.8 GHz), Australia (3.575-3.7 GHz), Japan (3.4-3.5 GHz), and China (3.3-3.6 GHz). The latter is also looking into 4.8-5 GHz spectrum for 5G.
The FCC will vote on the NOI at its August 3 meeting.
Filed Under: Telecommunications (Spectrum)