Homebuilders group seen as unusual suspect in 6 GHz proceeding

The Leading Builders of America (LBA), which includes many of the nation’s largest homebuilders, is a rather novel group to be making comments in a spectrum proceeding, but it’s definitely got an interest in the 6 GHz band.

The FCC is considering changes to the band that would provide much needed spectrum for unlicensed uses like Wi-Fi, something the homebuilders’ association believes is vital for new homes. In its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) (PDF) on the 6 GHz band, the commission specifically asks whether contemporary building codes and practices, especially with respect to modern energy efficiency standards, impact building entry and exit signal loss.   

“Production home builders like the members of the Leading Builders of America care about unlicensed spectrum generally and this proceeding in particular because consumers demand WiFi-enabled new homes,” the LBA told the commission in its Feb. 15 filing (PDF). “New residential homes offer automated features that rely on increasingly more unlicensed spectrum for WiFi and IoT applications. Increased bandwidth demands for in-home functionality require more unlicensed spectrum.”

According to the LBA, the commission should understand homebuilders’ use of materials and building techniques and how such construction impacts building entry and exit signal loss. Materials that tend to make an impact on signals include metal coated windows, including Low E windows; double-pane windows; stone, cement and brick siding; and metal foil barriers used in roof lining and in the modern insulation of cavity walls.

RELATED: Wi-Fi Alliance presses for modifications in 6 GHz proceeding

The LBA cites International Telecommunications Union (ITU) definitions and findings as it relates to how new buildings are constructed and their impact on signal loss.

“The Commission should apply current—and increasingly stringent—national, state and local building codes for new homes when calculating outdoor emissions from indoor devices using all of the unlicensed 6 GHz band,” the LBA said. “Contemporary building codes result in ever-increasing use of materials the ITU found to increase building entry loss. The Commission should consider these factors when calculating building entry loss due to unlicensed spectrum use throughout the 6 GHz band.”

LBA’s comments are noteworthy on a couple of fronts, according to Christopher Szymanski, director, Product Marketing & Government Affairs at Broadcom.

For one thing, they demonstrate the wide-ranging impact that telecommunications generally, and Wi-Fi specifically, has on the economy, he wrote in a blog post. For another, they demonstrate that modern buildings are energy efficient buildings, reinforcing the concept that limiting devices to indoor operations at lower power is an effective mitigation against harmful interference into incumbent operations that operate outdoors.

When people talk about the economic impact of Wi-Fi, they usually think about consumer devices and those types of things, but the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Certified Home Design was built specifically for homebuilders; it enables new homebuilders to offer built-in Wi-Fi networks with comprehensive coverage throughout the home, as well as outdoor living spaces.

It’s as if Wi-Fi is becoming a utility, not in a regulatory sense but in terms of the expectations of consumers, Szymanski told FierceWirelessTech. “This really goes to show that the FCC’s proposal of indoor low power—that it is a very, very effective mitigation against harmful interference” to the outdoor operators, he said.

With more energy efficient buildings, it’s proving harder to get LTE signals from the outside to the inside of a home, a situation that started with the enterprise and office buildings where operators and/or third parties started to install distributed antenna systems (DAS). Somewhat ironically, carriers with new 5G services are in some cases using millimeter wave spectrum outside the home, but it’s Wi-Fi inside the home.