FCC to make 4x more licensed, 'flexible use' spectrum available in Spectrum Frontiers move

If the FCC votes to adopt the proposed Spectrum Frontiers rulemaking on July 14, it will be making available more spectrum for flexible use wireless broadband than ever before: A total of 10.85 GHz, giving wireless operators and others a whole lot more spectrum to play with.

The FCC released a fact sheet on Thursday related to its Spectrum Frontiers proposal that identifies vast amounts of high-band spectrum for 5G wireless broadband. The proceeding has not gone without a hitch – the satellite and mobile industries have been bickering over spectrum sharing, particularly in the 28 GHz band. But many expect that to get resolved – FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said last week he is confident the FCC will adopt rules that will enable satellite, terrestrial and federal operations to coexist and thrive.

The proposal that Wheeler circulated called for ensuring that federal operations are protected and can grow, including by creating a dedicated sub-band for federal and non-federal entities to share equally in the 37-39 GHz segment. It would also create a path for continued and expanded satellite operations in the 28, 37 and 39 GHz bands. Specifically, the proposal said, it would adopt "several mechanisms to provide flexibility to satellite operators and predictability to terrestrial operators."

Under the proposal, a new Upper Microwave Flexible Use service will be created in the 28, 37, 39 GHz bands and an unlicensed band at 64-71 GHz. Licensed use will occur in the 28, 37 and 39 GHz bands, with unlicensed use in the 64-71 GHz band and shared access in the 37-37.6 GHz band.

The commission isn't slamming the door on further spectrum identification either. It proposed additional bands for consideration: 24-25 GHz, 32 GHz, 42 GHz, 48 GHz, 51 GHz, 70 GHz and 80 GHz.

Those additional bands mentioned in the last couple of paragraphs of the fact sheet pointed to even greater spectrum allocations, and at higher frequencies than might have earlier been thought to be on the table, noted Ted Rappaport, founding director of NYU Wireless, which conducted pioneering research into millimeter wave technologies and contributed to the proceeding.

"This is terrific news for ensuring the U.S. stays in the lead as the 'renaissance of wireless' occurs in the coming years," Rappaport told FierceWirelessTech.

If the commission approves Wheeler's proposal, the United States will be the first country in the world to open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks and applications. The move is significant given that other countries have touted their prowess in 5G and "pre-5G" and their plans to show off 5G at events like the 2018 Winter Olympics Games in South Korea.

In the U.S., Verizon Wireless has been the most vocal about how it wants to lead in 5G, but other operators, including AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, are all preparing for trials and tests for 5G. AT&T has emphasized the importance of developing standards around 5G before promising too much, while Sprint said its 2.5 GHz spectrum provides a great entrance into 5G. T-Mobile has 200 MHz of high-band spectrum in the 28-39 GHz range that it acquired from the purchase of MetroPCS, putting it in a good position for 5G tests, analysts have said.

For more:
- see this FCC fact sheet

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