Deteriorating Barriers to Innovation in the several. 5 GHz Band

On Friday the FCC unanimously voted to create the Citizens Broadband Radio Service in the several. 5 GHz Band. This action will create a 150-megahertz band suitable for wi-fi broadband, including 100 megahertz previously unavailable for commercial use since it was earmarked for military radars. The Commission adopted a comprehensive platform encompassing three tiers of contributed use (Incumbents, Priority Access, plus General Authorized Access), coordinated via one or more Spectrum Access Systems. Nowadays we released the rules for this new “innovation band”, which will become effective when they are soon published in the Federal Register.

The brand new 3. 5GHz rules will provide concrete benefits for all Americans. First, the new rules will support important national defense missions by protecting incumbent radar systems from interference. Second, the new rules will further boost the speed, capacity, and adaptability of wireless networks, leading to better cellular Internet performance for everyone. Finally, we all expect to see wide deployment of wireless broadband in industrial apps – advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare, etc . – supporting innovation plus growth throughout our economy.

While spectrum management can be a complex undertaking, drawing from engineering, economic, and legal analysis, the essential goal is simple. The Communications Function calls for clear rules so that variety uses of radio technology will never cause “harmful interference” to one another. Just as most cities have zoning planks to accommodate different, often incompatible, kinds of land use, so does the particular FCC (along with NTIA, our own counterpart in the executive branch managing federal spectrum uses) create zoning rules for radio spectrum. These zoning designations are called “allocations” plus, within allocations, we authorize various “radio services”.

With time, the FCC has worked to make these categories more flexible, to accommodate a variety of different uses and technologies. This flexibility is important. It allows wi-fi users, whether licensed or unlicensed, to upgrade from one generation of technology to the next without asking permission from the regulator, which is still required in certain other countries. It is no accident that technologies like Wi-Fi plus 4G cellular quickly took root in the United States.

Yet, despite this push for greater flexibility, certain assumptions about our spectrum management framework have remained fixed. These assumptions reflect hard distinctions – bright lines – embedded deep within the regulatory framework. Some of these presumptions are technological. In an age of high-powered analog transmissions, it made sense to put different radio uses upon different bands, everywhere in the United States. Other people result from legal and institutional choices made decades ago.

While the categories have served important purposes over the years, the division of the radio spectrum into different tranches – for different kinds of users plus uses – can also limit versatility and efficiency. As evidence, one particular need only look at the innumerable exceptions, footnotes, or other asterisks that have been added to the rules over the years to accommodate uses that not fit within neat regulatory containers.

With the new several. 5 GHz rules, the Commission payment enables a new model that uses contemporary technologies – spectrum sensing, cloud computing, and others – to break straight down some of the old categories. A few examples:

  • Federal vs . Non-Federal Allocation . Most spectrum bands have a major allocation to federal uses (overseen by NTIA) or non-Federal uses (overseen by the FCC). Even where there are overlapping “co-primary” allocations, in most cases one of the two kinds of users is usually clearly the predominant user in the band. More recently, as in the five GHz band, advanced sharing has taken root. We continue this pattern in 3. 5 GHz, exactly where commercial broadband users will present to several different types of military radar systems.
  • Licensed vs . Unlicensed Authorization . Our nation has profited from enormous innovation and expense in both licensed and unlicensed wi-fi systems. 3. 5 GHz symbolizes the first time we will enable a range band to “behave” in a certified or effectively unlicensed manner depending on an economic mechanism. In general, the band will be available for anyone to use with no expecting interference protection (similar in order to unlicensed). However , where demand to access the spectrum exceeds supply, we are going to hold auctions for geographically targeted, short-term “priority access licenses”, which will provide interference protections in portions of the band.
  • Company vs . Private Networks . Whilst we strive to create “flexible use” rules, in practice the attributes various bands tends to skew the use in order to either carrier networks (those that support consumer service) or personal networks (those that support the individual needs of a business or industry). As a consequence, private networks and carrier networks cannot share the same apparatus, in some cases raising costs and decreasing innovation. Because of the granular licensing within 3. 5 GHz, we expect that carrier and private networks will be able to share the same band, on the widespread basis, and will benefit from apparatus that may be used for either purpose throughout the band.

It will require some time to see the results of this new approach. We still have several guidelines ahead of us before the band will “turn on”. For example , we will need to authorize Spectrum Access System companies and establish auction procedures for that new priority access licenses. We expect multi-stakeholder groups to agree with procedures for coordinating use in the particular band. And, as with any new range band, technology vendors will have to style equipment that meets the specialized requirements spelled out in the rules. We also will continue to consider options for a small set of decisions not finalized in the Report and Order.

With the basic regulatory framework now in place, however , we now have a solid foundation to move forward. We are excited to observe how the future develops in the 3. five GHz innovation band.

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