FCC Looking to Make 1200 MHz Spectrum Available in the 6 GHz Band for Unlicensed Use

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking to make 1,200 MHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use. Unlicensed devices would share this spectrum with incumbent licensed services under rules that are crafted to protect those licensed services and to enable both unlicensed and licensed operations to thrive throughout the band. The draft rules will be voted on by the Commission at the FCC’s Open Meeting on April 23.

From Wi-Fi routers to home appliances, Americans’ everyday use of devices that connect to the Internet over unlicensed spectrum has increased significantly. Cisco projects that nearly 60% of global mobile data traffic will be off-loaded to Wi-Fi by 2022. To accommodate the increase in Wi-Fi demand, the FCC is aiming to increase the supply of the Wi-Fi spectrum with their boldest initiative yet: making the entire 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use. By doing this, FCC would effectively increase the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi by almost a factor of five. This would be a huge benefit to consumers and innovators across the nation. It would be another step toward increasing the capacity of the country’s networks. And it would help advance even further FCC’s leadership in next-generation wireless technologies, including 5G.

If adopted, the draft Report and Order would authorize two different types of unlicensed operations: standard-power in the 850 MHz of the band and indoor low-power operations over the full 1,200 MHz available in the 6 GHz band. An automated frequency coordination system would prevent standard power access points from operating where they could cause interference to incumbent services.  

A Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes to permit very low-power devices to operate across the 6 GHz band, to support high data rate applications including high-performance, wearable, augmented-reality and virtual-reality devices.  Specifically, the Further Notice would seek comment on making a contiguous 1,200-megahertz block of spectrum available for the development of new and innovative high-speed, short-range devices and on power levels and other technical and operational measures to avoid causing interference to incumbent services.

The full commission will vote on the draft rules at the next open meeting on April 23.