WASHINGTON, December 13, 2019 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday took two actions to open up the “mid-band” of radio frequency spectrum, freeing up 5.9 GigaHertz (GHz) spectrum for Wi-Fi, and beginning the process of opening up more spectrum at 3.1 GHz.
Spectrum in these “mid-band” zones is increasingly-coveted because it allows wireless transmitters to send data at a higher capacity, and yet still penetrate walls and foliage that otherwise limits transmitters to line-of-sight technologies.
The decision regarding the 5.9 GHz band takes the lower 45 megahertz of the 75 megahertz currently slotted for the Dedicated Short Range Communications service (at 5850-5925 MHz) and devotes it exclusively to Wi-Fi technology.
Two decades have passed since the 5.9 gigahertz band was designated for short-range communications, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said at the agency’s December meeting on Thursday. The remaining 30 megahertz (from 5895 MHz to 5925 MHz) is an ample amount for vehicular safety applications and handling interference issues, he said.
Under no circumstances should these 30 megahertz be used for anything other than promoting safety, O’Rielly said.
Commissioners Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel reiterated the need to adjust existing spectrum bands to meet future wireless demands.
Rosenworcel strongly urged the FCC to move faster with other mid-band spectrum, as U.S. spectrum policy becomes increasingly divorced from connectivity on the ground and the rest of the world.
For example, the agency’s current prioritization of millimeter-wave spectrum, she said, is detrimental when other countries have already advanced past that point.
Carr also praised the role of “Wi-Fi offloading” from commercial networks because of the strain that is expected from the demands for 5G wireless services.
Future wireless service and augmented reality technology, Carr continued, need a network that can respond quickly and handle a multitude of devices. Unlicensed spectrum will serve as the final link between the consumer and the cloud to effectively power 5G devices, he said.
Wi-Fi airwaves are congested, Rosenworcel added, and autonomous vehicles have moved beyond DSRC to communicate. She and other highlighted that the 5.9-band is adjacent to existing unlicensed spectrum, which is ideal for next-generation gigabit Wi-Fi.
“Thanks to its neighbor, this spectrum would punch above its weight,” FCC Chairman Aji Pai said in his announcement of the 5.9 GHz proposal on November 20, 2019, at the National Union Building. “The adjacent 5725-5850 MHz band is currently available for unlicensed operations, making this 45 megahertz sub-band ideally suited for unlicensed use,” he said
Pai also said he will consider using the upper 10 megahertz of this spectrum for DSRC in addition to Cellular Vehicle to Everything operations. This consideration, he said, was partly based off Japan’s successful use of DSRC for collision avoidance.
Beginning the process of spectrum sharing at 3.1 GHz-3.5 GHz, and other agency actions
In the second action on spectrum, the FCC began the process of facilitating spectrum sharing in the 3.1-3.55 GHz band between federal and commercial users. In particular, the FCC issued a notice of proposed rule making on removing the existing non-federal allocations in this band as a step towards potential future shared use between federal incumbents and commercial users.
The 3.3-3.5 GHz portion of the band, O’Rielly said, provides the ideal combination of geographic coverage for 5G services. The FCC will begin with phasing non-federal incumbents out of the band and re-purposing the upper 100 megahertz for commercial use.
The commissioners also voted to reform cable service change notifications and to simplify the national suicide prevention hotline number.
America’s suicide rate is at its highest since World War II, Pai said. A simple three-digit code for a suicide hotline can reduce the mental stigma surrounding mental health and ultimately save lives.
Rosenworcel added that it’s important for the FCC to use text messages as a form of reaching out to people in critical need of support. About 112 Americans live in areas with severe shortage of mental health providers, she said. It would be a mistake to build upon a system where talk is considered the only starting point of discussion.
Commissioner Geoffrey Starks emphasized that transparency is key for cable service notifications. Regulators should communicate with customers as much as possible whenever a change in service occurs, he said, to avoid confusion should service abruptly drop.
Changing the requirements for cable notices removes a mandate for traditional video providers that doesn’t fit real-world expectations, O’Rielly said. Often, issues with cable service providers resolve within the 30-day period before expiration.
It doesn’t make sense, Pai said, for the FCC to notify consumers of problems that occur between contracts, because they are usually solved quickly and would only confuse consumers about the type of service they will receive.
FCC Commissioner Supports Rural Telco Efforts to Implement ‘Rip and Replace’
In remarks at the Rural Wireless Association event on Wednesday, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks reaffirmed the FCC’s goals.
PARK CITY, Utah, June 30, 2022 – Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks acknowledged the agency’s goal of obtaining secure broadband networks at an event of the Rural Wireless Association on Wednesday.
“We must ensure that our broadband networks are secure,” Starks said in keynote address at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here, delivered via Zoom. “This is evident in the constant barrage of attacks of American networks from hostile state and non-state actors.”
Starks continued, “insecure networks, by definition, can’t provide the stable, reliable, always on communications we need. Especially during emergencies… Broadband must be secure for the full benefits of broadband to be achieved.”
The issue of ridding American telecommunications networks of equipment manufactured in China was a constant theme during the conference.
In addition to Starks’ presentation, several sessions addressed the dilemma faced by telecommunications carriers, particular rural ones, that had in the past invested heavily in lower-cost equipment from Huawei, a leading Chinese manufacturer.
As the political winds have changed on the topic over the past three years, Congress has allocated funds for a “rip and replace” program. The FCC is expected to announce the providers that will receive nearly $2 billion as part of the program by July 15.
But some fear that number could be more than $4 billion short of needed funds.
“The funds available will cover only a very small portion” of the costs to replace Huawei with non-Chinese manufacturers, said Carri Bennet, general counsel of the Rural Wireless Association.
Potential new requirements imposed on telecom providers
The commission recently sought comment on whether it should require carriers that receive high-cost support to have include baseline cyber security and supply chain risk management plans.
If these plans are included in requirements, Starks said that American communication networks would be protected from bad actors. Moreover, they are consistent with requirements already included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Starks thanked the RWA for its activity and advocacy in the “rip and replace” proceedings, officially dubbed the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Reimbursement Program.
“The threat is real,” called Starks. “Companies that are deemed by the federal government to be a threat to the United States and its people can not have free reign in data centers featuring some of the most sensitive data of Americans.”
This comes only days after Commissioner Brendan Carr called for Apple and Google to remove Beijing-based popular video-sharing application, TikTok, from their app stores in response to the apps’ obligation to comply with the Peoples Republic of China’s surveillance demands.
Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.
FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks Calls for Environmental Sustainability at Summit
Environmental sustainability in telecom has been a key talking point for Starks.
June 27, 2022 – Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Geoffrey Starks raised on Monday the importance of sustainability in telecommunications as a speaker at the 2022 Broadband for All Summit in Stockholm, Sweden.
An important responsibility for agencies in the industry is building infrastructure that is environmentally sustainable, Starks said, suggesting four avenues to improve sustainability.
First, “we must continue to find ways to do more while using less, and that begins with the way we use spectrum,” he said. We need to “squeeze” the most out of the finite spectrum while simultaneously building networks that draw less power.
Second, “we need to realize our full potential to help other sectors consume less, too.”
We are entering an era where we can “collect, communicate, and analyze massive quantities of data to improve decision-making in real-time. Everything from traffic flow to energy transmission to orders of operation on the factory floor can benefit from data-driven efficiencies that were previously impossible,” he said.
Third, “industry-led initiatives must continue to play a significant role, from progressing towards reducing or eliminating the carbon emissions associated with their operations, to increasing renewable energy and minimizing electronic waste.”
Some manufacturers, according to Starks, have gone beyond carbon neutrality and are aiming for net-zero operations.
Fourth, “we must collectively do our part to mitigate climate change’s harmful effects at the network level”. With harsher weather patterns than previous generation, we should invest in networks that will keep communities connected during storms, floods, wildfires, and other disasters.
Starks, who has pitched environmental sustainability in telecommunications on a multiple occasions, advocated for players in the industry to be “as aggressive as possible with our climate commitments, and we should be as comprehensive as possible in our effort to comply with them.” This should include eliminating waste during the production phase, he said.
FCC to Gather Information on Offshore Spectrum, Accurate 911 Call Routing
The FCC is examining the need and use cases for allocating spectrum for offshore use.
WASHINGTON, June 8, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission voted in an open meeting Wednesday to examine technology that can improve wireless 911 call routing, propose a fine for interrupting U.S. forest service radio communications, and to seek comment on offshore spectrum needs and uses.
The FCC voted to begin gathering information through public comment on the “possible current and future needs, uses, and impacts of offshore wireless spectrum use,” including for cruise ships, oceanography and wind turbine projects. Other options, like satellite-based systems, are available to provide service.
The construction and operation of windfarms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and communication services between at-sea vessels require offshore spectrum. The notice of inquiry asks what other cases exist that require offshore spectrum access that are not being provided for under existing models.
“We seek more broadly to understand the extent of the demand to use offshore spectrum and more generally where that demand is concentrated,” stated the inquiry.
“It is important that the FCC stay ahead of the curve in its consideration of upcoming commercial spectrum needs and this item does just that,” said commissioner Nathan Simington.
911 call routing
The FCC launched an examination into technology that could result in faster response times by more precisely routing wireless 911 calls to the correct call center.
Some wireless emergency calls are made near city or county borders where the closest call center is in the neighboring jurisdiction, resulting in lost time as calls are rerouted to the correct call center.
Since 2018, when the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking comment on feasibility of routing 911 calls based on location of the caller versus location of the cellular tower, there have been many advancements in location-based routing technology. The FCC issued a Public Notice Wednesday seeking updated information on these technologies and the feasibility of adopting them into public use.
Last month, AT&T announced a new technology that would allow dispatchers to get a more accurate location of distressed calls by using the phone’s GPS.
Proposed fine for violating radio interference rules
The FCC also proposed a $34,000 fine Wednesday against Jason Frawley who, in 2021, allegedly interfered with radio communications that were guiding firefighting during the 1000-acre wildfire near Elk River, Idaho.
Frawley reportedly admitted to a Forest Service supervisor that he broadcasted on government frequencies in direct defiance to the Communications Act which prohibits any interference with authorized radio communications.
Neither the allegations nor the proposed sanctions are final FCC actions, said the press release.
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