Association Urges “Extreme Caution” in Unlicensed Use of 6 GHz Band

The National Spectrum Management Association (NSMA) asked the FCC to conduct tests in the 6 GHz band before opening the 1,200 MHz swath of spectrum for unlicensed use. The new rules, meant to allow devices to use WiFi 6 in the band, were adopted in 2020, and then put on hold as a challenge worked its way through the courts. In January, an appeals court sided with the Commission.

The 6 GHz band is used in more than 100,000 microwave radio links that form the essential communications infrastructure for first responders and other mission critical systems. In addition to fixed microwave users, the 6 GHz band is used by licensees that employ transmitters and receivers on portable bases, like news vans and broadcasting cameras, and send programming from remote locations back to studios. The band is also inhabited by mobile transmitters to support wireless microphones and backstage communications. 

The association expressed its “grave concerns” about the regulatory change that “could wreak havoc” on police and fire departments, ambulance services, pipelines, electric and water utilities, and railroads — with potentially disastrous consequences for public safety.

To function safely, these links require extremely high-quality signal availability — with less than 158 seconds of interruption per year. Greatly increasing traffic in this band increases the probability of service interruptions, according to Joseph Sandri, president of the NSMA.

“This swarm of devices could disrupt communications for first responders, utility workers, pipeline safety engineers, and more,” Sandri said. “Without more thorough testing, the deployment of these devices can place dangerous amounts of stress on critical networks around the country.”

The FCC said that low-power indoor use protects licensed 6 GHz technology such as  AT&T’s microwave links and TV broadcasts from interference, while “standard power” devices used indoors and outdoors could include automated frequency control to prevent interference, Inside Towers reported.

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