5G in the Air: Crucial FCC Spectrum Vote Coming Thursday

The FCC will vote on opening up crucial high-frequency radio spectrum for future 5G services this Thursday.

OK, what does that mean for me? The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is voting on whether to open up huge amounts of higher-band frequencies -- at 28GHz, 37GHz, 39Ghz and a public band between 64GHz and 71GHz -- for expected 5G deployments in 2020 or earlier. These millimeter wave (mmWave) bands are expected to be a building block for 5G, which should lead to super-fast wireless networks that can download a full movie over the air in seconds. All of the major U.S. mobile operators have started initial mmWave trials.

Why is the FCC so hopped up on mmWave? The commissioners appear united in their desire to help the US take the lead in mmWave 5G deployments. Voting on opening up the spectrum is only the first major step, and spectrum auctions will follow.

Any opposition? There's a possibility of concerns from satellite operators working in the 28GHz band, although the FCC says it has already contacted major government and satellite players about the future.

Any unforeseen consequences? The FCC appears to be ready to open up vast amounts of new licensed and unlicensed spectrum. It is talking about 2X200MHz channels as the new norm for carriers operating in mmWave bands. 2x5MHz or 2x10MHz is the usual starting point for LTE today. The planned unlicensed mmWave band will offer 14GHz of radio bandwidth, the FCC says, which is unheard of. This means that companies holding 28GHz LMDS (fixed wireless) licenses or 39GHz backhaul licenses today in hopes of a 5G windfall are probably best advised to find a buyer as soon as possible, before they are swamped in a tidal wave of new spectrum.

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— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

DanJones 7/14/2016 | 3:00:11 PM
Approved The FCC they say yes!!! But then you knew that would happen.
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