Microwave Journal

FCC Proposes Adding Wi-Fi Spectrum, Prepares for 3.5 GHz CBRS Auction

October 23, 2018

FCC logoIn two separate votes today, the FCC proposed to allocate 1.2 GHz at 6 GHz for unlicensed applications — aka Wi-Fi — and updated the rules governing licenses in the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band.

6 GHz Wi-Fi

Formally approving a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 18-147), the FCC proposes to allow unlicensed use in the band from 5.925 to 7.125 GHz, as long as the new users don't interfere with existing licensed services.

Three services currently operate in the band:

  • Point-to-point radio links.
  • Broadcast Auxiliary Services (BAS), used by radio and TV broadcasters to connect studios to transmitters or remote locations to studios.
  • Cable Television Relay Service (CARS), used to relay terrestrial radio or TV signals to a cable TV operator for distribution on the oeprator's cable network.

To avoid interference with point-to-point radio, the FCC is proposing an automated frequency coordination system, should one be required. However, the proposal seeks feedback on whether this is necessary, since Wi-Fi is typically used indoors and distant from point-to-point radio antennas.

To prevent interference with BAS and CARS, the FCC proposes restricting unlicensed devices to inside, operating at lower transmit power.

3.5 GHz CBRS Licenses

Today's action by the FCC modifies the initial rules for CBRS, established in 2015, that allow sharing the 3.55 to 3.7 GHz band among federal and non-federal users, with existing federal users retaining priority.

The initial CBRS ruling established three tiers of users, in order of rights:

  • Incumbents, i.e., existing users, such as radar systems.
  • Priority Access Licenses (PAL), to be auctioned.
  • General Authorized Access (GAA). The FCC says GAA users may use any portion of the CBRS band not assigned to an incumbent or PAL user; also, they may operate “opportunistically” on unused PAL channels.

Preparing for the upcoming PAL auctions, today's FCC ruling changes the size of the license area from census tracts to counties, with seven PALs available in each license area, and defines the license duration as 10 years, with the option to renew.