The FCC commissioner is pushing for the US to be the "first country" in the world to open up vast amounts of high-band spectrum for 5G uses in the coming years.
"5G is a national priority," Wheeler said in a speech in Washington, D.C., on Monday. He is putting new rules about a "Spectrum Frontiers proceeding" before the other commissioners this Thursday. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on proposals on July 14.
The high-band radio spectrum under discussion -- known as the centimeter (cmWave) and millimeter wave (mmWave) bands -- is one of the building blocks of 5G. The next-generation wireless standard, which is expected to be in commercial deployment by 2020 but could arrive earlier, is anticipated to deliver data over-the-air at gigabit speeds, allowing a movie to be downloaded in seconds. (See 5G: As Close as You'll Get to a Jet Pack!)
Wheeler didn't reveal the full extent of the spectrum planning for an mmWaves (30GHz to 300GHz) future. He did say that the plans call for "a massive 14 gigahertz unlicensed band." This could be at 60GHz and is a much larger unlicensed spectrum set aside than has been proposed before by the FCC. (See 60GHz: A Frequency to Watch.)
Wheeler hasn't yet said what he proposes opening up in licensed bands like 28GHz. It looks likely to be another massive allocation though.
"Current blocks of licensed low-band spectrum are usually 5 to 10 MHz in width," Wheeler said. "With 5G, however, we are looking at blocks of at least 200 MHz in width." (See Sprint's Big Game: 5G at 2.5GHz for more on how much bandwidth early 5G tests are using.)
Wheeler stressed that the US could take a leadership role in 5G by moving quickly on opening up licensed and unlicensed spectrum. "Unlike some countries, we do not believe we should spend the next couple of years studying what 5G should be, how it should operate, and how to allocate spectrum, based on those assumptions," Wheeler said.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading