The FCC moved ahead with the agency’s efforts to free up more high-band spectrum for 5G, voting Thursday on actions including the adoption of additional rules for mmWave spectrum bands.
“In order to bring 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity, to American consumers, we have to make available the spectrum necessary for new services to flourish,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.
In preparation for upcoming spectrum auctions, the agency voted to set forth rules on bands previously allocated for flexible use, including an operability requirement for the entire 24 GHz band; a sharing framework to allow use of a portion of the 24 GHz band for terrestrial wireless operations Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) earth stations; a band plan for the lower 37 GHz band; and spectrum aggregation rules applicable to certain bands.
Pai noted that the operability requirement will “help potential users – both large and small – with competitive access and will ensure that no portion of the band gets left behind as the equipment is developed.”
The agency also prosed to make 2.75 GHz of spectrum available across the 26 GHz and 42 GHz bands for flexible wireless use, seeking comment and “teeing up” coordination to aid shared use of the lower 37 GHz band between federal and non-federal users. The FCC is also asking for feedback on potential rules for FSS use of the 50 GHz band for a limited number of earth stations.
The Commission denied petitions requesting geographic area licensing in the lower 37 GHz band and to allocate the 42 GHz band for satellite use.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel dissented in part, specifically taking issue with move to limit any pre-auction limits for high-band spectrum and replace them all with post-auction case-by-case review, which she said “misses the mark.” She said that as national providers consolidate and grow larger, “it is important we take steps now to avoid undue aggregation of spectrum in these new markets.”
While fully supporting the move not to impose a pre-auction spectrum cap, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, too, raised concern over the post-auction case-by-case spectrum aggregation review; but took an opposite stance, saying, “As I stated last year, these spectrum screens should be eliminated.”
“There is still no evidence of the wireless industry ever ‘warehousing’ spectrum,” he added.
O’Rielly also said he was concerned by the suggestion that federal operations could expand in the upper 37 GHz, even if such expansion is limited or on an “as-needed” basis.
“The federal government needs to reduce its spectrum footprint, not expand it,” he said.
Industry group CTIA applauded the vote, noting a variety of spectrum bands will be needed for the U.S. to be a leader in 5G.
“CTIA and the wireless industry commend the FCC for taking steps to make more high-band spectrum available for 5G wireless use,” said Scott Bergmann, CTIA SVP for regulatory affairs, in a statement. “A pipeline of low, mid, and high band spectrum is essential to winning the global race to 5G and spurring new industries, such as the Internet of Things and autonomous vehicles.”