FCC Mulls Opening Up 4.9GHz for 5G, Robots & Drones

The FCC is considering opening up the 4.9GHz public safety band possibly for more 5G access and support robotic and drone operations in the future.

The move is because the agency feels that the 4.9GHz band has "fallen short of its potential." This is because out of "nearly 90,000 public safety entities ... eligible ... to obtain licenses in the band, there were only 2,442 licenses in use in 2012 and only 3,174 licenses ... in 2018," the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said.

The FCC says that existing public safety license holders would be "grandfathered in" on the band.

The agency is asking for further comment on a number of possibilities for the 4.9GHz band. "As this spectrum has been underutilized, we request comment on redesignating the 4.9 GHz band, wholly or partially, to support commercial wireless use," the agency said.

"For example, would the public interest be best served if this spectrum could be used for commercial applications, such as 5G, or would it be better to strike a balance between public safety and commercial uses?"

Some of the possibilities include leasing out limited licenses --like those proposed for the 3.5GHz band previously -- for commercial usage. (See T-Mobile Calls on FCC to Open 3.5GHz for 5G for more on this.)

The FCC is also considering the possibility of allowing police robots on the band. Bomb-sniffing and other robots currently operate on unlicensed spectrum.

The FCC states that robots could "enhance first responder safety by allowing users to send remote controlled, camera-equipped mobile devices into potentially dangerous situations."

The agency also proposes using some channels in the band to support unmanned drone operations.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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