RealTime IT News

FCC Opens New Spectrum for Millimeter Wave Broadband

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved service rules Thursday morning for the commercial development of spectrum in the 71-76 GHz, 81-86 GHz and 92-95 GHz bands.

Previously reserved exclusively for government use, the FCC hopes the space will now be used for a broad range of new fixed wireless services including high-speed wireless local networks, broadband access systems for the Internet and point-to-point communications.

The FCC will issue an unlimited number of non-exclusive, nationwide licenses authorizing non-federal government entities, including private businesses and state local governments, to use the entire 12.9 GHz of spectrum in the three bands. The 94.0-94.1 GHz portion will be allocated for exclusive federal government use.

After more than a year of study, the FCC's Wireless Bureau determined that because of the "pencil-beam" characteristics of the signals transmitted in the bands, systems can be engineered to operate in close proximity to one another without causing interference.

Wireless Bureau Chief John Muletta said each path licensed will be registered in a database and be entitled to interference protection based on the date of registration.

"The 'millimter wave' provides new and fertile ground for our nation's entrepreneurs to harvest our vision of strong facilities-based competition, vibrant innovation, lower prices and consumer protection that will define our country's broadband future," said FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell, who noted the spectrum is the highest frequency bands ever licensed by the agency.

Two years ago, Loea Communications Corp., a subsidiary of Trex Enterprises Corp. of Calif., filed a petition with the FCC requesting the establishment of service rules for the licensed use of the 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz bands, space previously used by the military and ham radio operators.

Loea is a telecommunications carrier and intends to offer bundled communication services utilizing its gigabit wireless network to link customers' facilities or communication infrastructure within its network or directly to the fiber backbone, bypassing local loop access provided by incumbent telecommunication carriers.

The technology is point-to-point fixed wireless that can communicate up to 10 miles and at a data rate of 1.25 Gbps (approximately 800 T1 lines). Loea is also working on its next generation of product with a projected data rate of 12.5 Gbps.

FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps supported the measure but was more temperate in hi s praise than Powell.

"Spurring the use of this new technology will hopefully, one day, allow for more choices of broadband providers than those narrow choices available to consumers and businesses today," Copps said. "But we should never our chickens before they hatch. Until that wonderful day arrives, I hope the Commission will not mistake the promise of future competition with the reality of today's limited competition when we make policy."