On February 20, 2013, the FCC initiated a rule making proceeding to open up 5 GHz frequencies for gigabit Wi-Fi use through spectrum-sharing technologies. The Notice of Proposed Rule Making ("NPRM") proposed to revise the FCC's rules to expand the Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure ("U-NII") in the 5 GHz band.

The 5 GHz spectrum to be opened up is currently heavily used, for example, by the FAA for its radar systems, and by local broadcast weather departments in operating dopplar radar for storm tracking purposes. The FCC proposes spectrum-sharing rules specifically drafted to avoid interference with the incumbent services.

The FCC noted that security features like the dynamic frequency selector ("DFS") are particularly helpful in avoiding interference with essential homeland security and other incumbent functions. The FCC asked whether manufacturers should strengthen the security of marketed devices, and perhaps even include automatic switches to disable devices if the security features, like the DFS, are modified.

Highlights include the FCC's request for comment on:

  • Proposal to expand the use of so-called sensing technologies, like DFS, to detect and protect incumbent uses in all parts of the 5 GHz U-NII.
  • Proposal to include software defined radios ("SDR") among the devices that must be certified under the Part 15 equipment certification process.
  • Whether Part 2 of its rules, relating to frequency allocations, should be revised.
  • The NTIA 5 GHz Report, which analyzed the risk of interference to incumbent services in the 5 GHz bandwith, and which formed the foundation of the NPRM.

Comments are due May 28, 2013.

Reply Comments are due June 24, 2013.