New coalition wants FCC to consider sharing in 10 GHz band

A new organization is bringing up an old idea: Share spectrum in the 10 GHz band so that wireless internet service providers (WISPs) and others can use it for things like providing broadband in rural and hard-to-reach areas of the U.S.

The Coordinated Sharing Coalition – which is comprised of Cambium Networks, Public Knowledge, Open Technology Institute at New America and WISPA – is asking the FCC to modify its rules to permit up to 500 megahertz in the 10.0-10.5 GHz band to be licensed on a non-exclusive basis for non-federal point-to-point communications. The spectrum, as proposed, would be governed by an Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) system. 

“The Coalition’s proposal would be especially useful for backhaul, middle mile, and other point-to-point services which are essential to the provision of wireless access,” noted Louis Peraertz, VP of Policy for WISPA, in a statement. “It would allow policymakers to accommodate future growth by getting more juice out of underutilized spectrum in a manner that protects incumbents from unreasonable interference.“

In a petition for rulemaking presented to the FCC on Tuesday, the coalition referred to a 2013 petition by Mimosa Networks that called on the commission to adopt rules for non-federal access to the 10.0-10.5 GHz band for unlicensed point-to-point use.

But in 2013, there was no Spectrum Access System (SAS) or AFC and in the intervening years, spectrum sharing has become more prolific. The Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is in full swing and dozens of manufacturers are producing CBRS equipment – so much so that 240,000 Category A and B CBRS devices are registered with a SAS, according to the coalition’s figures.

That said, the simpler AFC system for the 6 GHz band is well along in development and provides a more appropriate model for the 10 GHz band, according to the coalition. The commission also is considering AFC for unlicensed or secondary operations in the 4.9 GHz band.

“Spectrum sharing among multiple operators in the 10 GHz band would be facilitated through an AFC system with a database mechanism that recognizes up-to-date occupied portions of the band that require protection,” the coalition told the commission.

“The spectrum access enabled by a database-driven AFC system would fill an important gap for a wide range of users,” the coalition wrote. “Consistent with actions the commission has taken in other bands, it would make spectrum available to the public without harming incumbent operations. Further, it would not require existing users to relocate to new frequencies or discontinue operations.”

Federal incumbent users and amateur radio operators who currently use the spectrum would register with the AFC system and therefore shouldn’t incur any harmful interference from commercial users under the coalition’s proposal.

The coalition wants the FCC to adopt a notice of proposed rulemaking that would kick off a public comment cycle on its proposals.