The FCC on Friday issued a Notice of Inquiry regarding the use of spectrum above 24 GHz for 5G mobile broadband communications. According to chairman Tom Wheeler, “This Notice of Inquiry we adopt today explores the possibility of facilitating the use of a huge amount of spectrum that could be used strategically to help meet the growing demand for wireless broadband.”
Wheeler acknowledged that it’s long been assumed that technical limitations would preclude the use of such high frequencies for mobile applications, but he added that the suitability of 3 GHz and even 2 GHz as an upper limit had been debated.
He said, “By using innovative technologies that can simultaneously track and acquire multiple signals reflecting and ricocheting off obstacles in the physical environment, future devices might be able to leverage much higher frequency bands, those above 24 GHz, for mobile applications.”
Wheeler might take exception to my citing “5G” in this post’s headline. “Some in the industry are referring to the use of these bands in the context of so-called ‘5G,’ he said. “What 5G is, or what it is not, is not the issue at this point. What is the issue is the encouragement of further development of next-generation wireless service.”
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel noted that the U.S., with 5% of the world’s population, leads the world in 4G LTE deployments with nearly half of all LTE subscriptions. “But,” she added, “we also have more work to do. Because laurels, are not, in fact, good resting places. Because we need to think beyond our success with 4G service. Because the race to 5G is on.”
To meet the challenges, she said, “We look up. Way, way, up.” She added, “We need to bust through our old 3-GHz ceiling. Let’s take a look at spectrum all the way up in the 60-GHz range—and maybe all the way to 90 GHz. At these ranges we can aggregate spectrum and allow data-intensive applications to ride across hundreds of megahertz at a time.”
She concluded, “To take advantage of these millimeter waves will require thinking though some novel technical and policy issues. At the same time, we will need to continue to work to secure spectrum for new commercial use below 3 GHz. But if we do both right, we will take our leadership in 4G service and leverage it into the emerging world of 5G service. So let’s get out of the gate, get going, and make it happen.”