Broadcast, Cable Square Off Over 6 GHz

Broadcasters and cable operators are battling over use of the 6 GHz band the FCC is looking to free up for unlicensed wireless in its relentless search for more spectrum for advanced communications.  

Broadcasters are trying to protect their incumbent electronic newsgathering (ENG) in the band while cable operators are trying to expand their WiFi domain.  Something may have to give.

Computer companies are on cable's side when it comes to freeing up the entire band for sharing with unlicensed broadband, while wireless carriers are with broadcasters in arguing the threat of interference to licensed mobile users. 

Related: Big Tech Takes Issue with NAB 6 GHz Study

In meetings with FCC engineering staffers in the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET), representatives of CableLabs, Charter and Comcast said they were convinced that there was a way to allow for use of the entire band for unlicensed use, including WiFi, which they said would "not only alleviate growing congestion on existing WiFi spectrum resources, but will also unleash unparalleled innovation with the deployment of WiFi 6, which is essential to the continued expansion of broadband performance for Americans." 

But while the cable ops told the FCC they were sure that incumbents could be protected from harmful interference and urged the FCC to move quickly to open the band, broadcasters had a very different story. 

In their own meeting with OET staffers, NAB executives said while they were willing to work with the FCC and other stakeholders to allow for unlicensed to share with some fixed uses in the band, the same was not the case for sharing with mobile ENG uses.  

NAB told the FCC that all of the current proposals are "simply incompatible with mobile broadcast operations used for electronic newsgathering – and no proposal advanced by any party to date will protect those mobile operations." 

NAB said the FCC needed to "recognize this fundamental incompatibility," and concede that unlicensed operations in those ENG portions of the band "cannot presently be authorized without creating entirely foreseeable risks for harmful interference." 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.