FCC to Authorize Another 1700 MHz of New Millimeter Wave Spectrum

You can credit Moore’s Law for allowing commercial use of millimeter wave communications in the mass markets, bringing an order of magnitude (10 times) to two orders of magnitude (100 times) more usable mobile and fixed wireless capacity to the U.S. market.

The simple reason is that, in the past, it has been too expensive and difficult to use millimeter wave spectrum for access networks. But cheap processing and memory now mean we can process signals affordably enough to use millimeter wave frequencies in the access network.

But there are many other implications. So much new spectrum is coming, and so much unlicensed spectrum will be made available, that the economics of the access business will change.

The huge trove of new capacity, dwarfing all present mobile and Wi-Fi spectrum, will reshape the economics of the access business, allowing new competitors and business models to arise, revaluing spectrum licenses, enabling fixed wireless to compete with fixed networks and positioning mobile networks as full product substitutes for  fixed networks for the first time.

At its November 2017 meeting, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on an order that would make available 1,700 Megahertz of additional terrestrial wireless spectrum available for use, adding to the 11 Gigahertz of spectrum the FCC earlier had made available for flexible terrestrial wireless purposes, largely expected to support 5G use cases.

The additional 1700 Megahertz of high-band spectrum will be made available in the 24 GHz and 47 GHz bands.

As part of its Spectrum Frontiers initiative, the FCC already had started work to release new spectrum in the 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 64 GHz to 71 GHz bands.

Though 3.85 GHz of that 11 GHz would be made available on a licensed basis, 7 GHz would be available to use on an unlicensed basis.

Spectrum in the 28 GHz, 37 GHz and 39 GHz bands (3.85 GHz total) represents more than four times the amount of flexible-use spectrum the FCC has licensed to date. In the 37 GHz and 39 GHz bands 200-MHz license areas would be created, with a total of 2.4 GHz available.

In the 28 GHz band, two 425 MHz spectrum blocks will be available, on a nationwide basis.

The 7 GHz of new unlicensed spectrum, combined with the existing high-band unlicensed spectrum (57-64 GHz), doubles the amount of high-band unlicensed spectrum to 14 GHz of contiguous unlicensed spectrum (57-71 GHz).

That 14 GHz band will be 15 times as much as all unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum in the lower bands.

Also planned: shared access in the 37 GHz to 37.6 GHz band makes available 600 MHz of spectrum for dynamic shared access between different commercial users, and commercial and federal users.

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