Rosenworcel Proposes Next Step for 6 GHz Band Use

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed new rules this week to allow very low power devices to operate in the 6 GHz band alongside other WiFi-enabled devices. If adopted at the Commission’s October 19 meeting, the rules will enable cutting-edge applications such as augmented and virtual reality, that will help businesses, enhance learning opportunities, advance healthcare opportunities, and bring new entertainment experiences, according to the FCC. (The Commission told employees and contractors yesterday that, in the event of a government shutdown, it plans to remain open through October 20, using funding other than appropriations.)

“Countless innovations that have made our lives easier and more convenient are dependent on unlicensed spectrum. The 6 GHz band has already improved the WiFi that we rely on every day for work, school, entertainment, and innovation,” said Rosenworcel. “I hope my colleagues will join me to foster a new wave of innovation in devices that will benefit consumers in exciting ways and bolster U.S. leadership in advanced wireless technologies.”  

As advocated by then-Commissioner Rosenworcel along with then-Commissioner Mike O’Reilly, the FCC expanded unlicensed use in 1,200 MHz of spectrum between 5.925 and 7.125 GHz. The agency says that decision has helped usher in WiFi 6 and played a major role in the growth of the IoT. The latest proposal builds off this success to allow for other types of operations in the band, according to the agency.

The proposal circulated to the Commissioners for a vote includes new rules and issues a clarifying order. The Report and Order would authorize very low power operations in the U-NII-5 and U-NII-7 portions of the 6 GHz band totaling 850 MHz of spectrum. Operations at power levels up to -5 dBm/MHz could occur anywhere, indoors or outdoors, without any need for a frequency coordination system.

The Commission would take further public comment on expanding operation of these very low power unlicensed devices to the remainder of the 6 GHz band. The FCC would propose permitting very low power devices to use higher power levels while employing a geofencing system to protect licensed incumbent operations in the band. 

The agency would also seek public input on additional ways to expand unlicensed device use throughout the 6 GHz band while protecting incumbents from harmful interference. 

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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