The Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) is slated to consider adoption of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) exploring increased use of spectrum bands above 24 GHz, including for mobile broadband, at  its next Open Meeting on October 22.  Late last week, Chairman Tom Wheeler blogged that the NPRM, the next step in the Commission’s Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, “proposes a framework for flexible spectrum use rules for bands above 24 GHz.”

The NPRM will build on a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) released one year ago.  The NOI received over fifty comments on the potential benefits and challenges of operating mobile radio services in bands above 24 GHz (also known as the millimeter wave bands) and whether these bands can support next-generation mobile wireless services such as 5G deployment.  The NOI examined the following millimeter wave bands: the 24 GHz bands; the LMDS (local multipoint distribution service) bands in the 27.5-28.35 GHz, 29.1-29.25 GHz, and 31-31.3 GHz bands; the 39 GHz band; the 37/42 GHz bands; the 60 GHz bands; and the 70/80 GHz bands.  The NPRM is expected to address the broad range of issues raised in response to the NOI.  Commenters advocated for a variety of approaches to make millimeter wave spectrum available, including licensed, unlicensed, and hybrid schemes.  Some commenters said the agency should seek to reserve as many of the channels as possible for licensed use, while incumbents in these bands – satellite, fixed wireless, amateur, and radio astronomy operators, among others –  stressed the importance of protecting existing systems.  Many of the commercial mobile broadband industry continued to advocate for more allocations below 6 GHz for mobile broadband without delay while explaining that the spectrum above 24 GHz held some promise to support certain broadband related applications.  Now, a year later, it will be of particular interest, especially as Congress is expected to consider new spectrum legislation shortly, how the commercial mobile broadband industry will respond to the potential allocations in the context of their overall strategy to secure access to large amounts of additional spectrum to meet their evolving demand.

Chairman Wheeler also noted in his blog post, the second on the subject in the past few months, that the millimeter wave band proposals are consistent with the U.S. position in the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) taking place in Geneva throughout the month of November (WRC-15) regarding bands that should be studied for the future WRC conference in 2019 (WRC-19).  The U.S. hopes to coordinate with international partners to develop rules for these bands and conducting technical sharing and compatibility studies for global use of these frequencies.