FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has unveiled a new proposal to open up “huge swaths” of high-band spectrum for 5G applications.
In remarks delivered on Monday, Wheeler said the FCC intends to act to make “ample spectrum available” through a new Spectrum Frontiers proposal even before 5G standards are passed.
“Unlike some countries, we do not believe we should spend the next couple of years studying what 5G should be, how it should operate, and how to allocate spectrum, based on those assumptions,” Wheeler said. “Turning innovators loose is far preferable to expecting committees and regulators to define the future. We won’t wait for the standards to be first developed…we will make ample spectrum available and then rely on a private sector-led process for producing technical standards best suited for those frequencies and use cases.”
Wheeler’s proposal – which he said will be circulated Thursday and up for a vote on July 14 – focuses mainly high-band spectrum. Wheeler said high frequency spectrum offers the “super-fast” data rates and low latency that will be critical for next generation services.
According to Wheeler, the plan proposes expansion of licensed blocks to chunks of at least 200 MHz in the higher bands and the creation of a “massive 14 GHz unlicensed band.” The proposal also lays out a “balanced solution” for spectrum sharing between the satellite and mobile industries and calls for the FCC to seek comments on other options for opening up high-band spectrum, he said.
Current blocks of licensed low-band spectrum are usually 5 to 10 MHz in width, Wheeler said.
The commission has already addressed the availability of low- and mid-band spectrum through its current incentive auction and last year’s AWS-3 auction, Wheeler said.
Wheeler said he was confident opening up spectrum for 5G would enable a “cornucopia of unanticipated innovative uses and generate tens of billions of dollars in economic activity.” The decision would also make the United States the first country to open its high-band spectrum for 5G networks, he said.
“We will be repeating the proven formula that made the United States the world leader in 4G,” Wheeler said. “It’s a simple formula: Lead the world in spectrum availability, encourage and protect innovation-driving competition, and stay out of the way of technological development.”
CTIA president and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker on Monday praised the FCC’s action on high-band spectrum, saying it would “jump start our nation’s 5G efforts,” but warned more low- and mid-band spectrum will be necessary.
“The ongoing 600 MHz auction is a significant down payment, but a consistent pipeline of additional spectrum is necessary to meet America’s current and future mobile demands,” Baker wrote in a blog post. “High-band spectrum is a key complement, but will never replace the need for traditional spectrum resources.”
Wheeler’s new proposal comes on the heels of lobbying from U.S. wireless carriers like Verizon, which asked the FCC in January to open up high-band spectrum for 5G services. Verizon and CTIA renewed those calls again in March.
The FCC has been considering how it can make use of high-frequency spectrum above 24 GHz for wireless services since October 2015.
Verizon has previously said it is eyeing a 2017 deployment of 5G services, but must wait on the FCC to clear ultra-high-band spectrum.
Filed Under: Telecommunications (Spectrum), Wireless