Wireless carriers filing comments late last week in the FCC’s fifth-generation (5G) “spectrum frontiers” proceeding recommended against further unlicensed allocation of millimeter wave spectrum as they called on the FCC to assign additional millimeter wave frequencies to the wireless industry on an exclusive, licensed basis. Players in the commercial satellite industry, meanwhile, stressed that any rules adopted by the FCC must ensure protection for both existing and future satellite operations in affected spectrum bands.
As part of a recent Report and Order which opened up nearly 11 GHz of spectrum in the 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 64-71 GHz bands for licensed and unlicensed fifth-generation (5G) wireless services, the FCC sought comment on potential usage of certain 24 GHz, 32 GHz, 42 GHz, 47 GHz, 50 GHz and 70-80 GHz band channels that would expand the total 5G allocation to 28.7 GHz. Among other things, the further rulemaking notice (FNPRM) also solicited views on (1) the feasibility of allocating spectrum above 95 GHz for 5G use, (2) the establishment of performance requirements for machine-to-machine communications and other applications connected to the Internet of Things, and (3) mechanisms for implementing spectrum holdings policies that were adopted previously by the FCC for the 28 GHz, 37 GHz, and 39 GHz bands.
Reminding the FCC that it has “already repurposed a full seven gigahertz of spectrum for unlicensed uses in the 64-71 GHz band—compared to the 3.25 GHz of millimeter wave spectrum allocated for licensed, exclusive use—and earmarked another 600 MHz for experimental sharing,” wireless association CTIA stressed that the FCC “should make the bands discussed in the FNPRM available on a licensed, exclusive use basis.” To “encourage the innovation and investment necessary to elevate 5G systems to their full potential,” CTIA emphasized that “exclusive-use licensing policies in the bands being considered in the FNPRM is all the more important.” Along the same vein, the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) agreed that, “while unlicensed services play an important role in the digital ecosystem, additional spectrum should not be made available for these services,” warning that “incorporating unlicensed use into newly-unleashed millimeter wave bands would devalue and discourage interest of use in this spectrum.” While Verizon recommended “proven licensing frameworks for the new millimeter wave bands” that “would maximize investment and innovation,” AT&T urged the FCC to reject the notion “that higher bands will never work for exclusively-licensed services.”
Meanwhile, as Lockheed Martin declared that the FCC’s rules “should maximize the spectrum available for satellite systems,” the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) highlighted the fact that many of the spectrum bands addressed in the NPRM “are current satellite service bands as well as near-term future growth bands.” As such, SIA told the agency that “any plan for these bands necessarily should include provisions for sufficient spectrum and geographic flexibility to enable satellite services to continue to grow and innovate.”