FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's 6 GHz Proposal Draws Crowd

FCC chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to allow unlicensed use of the entire 6 GHz spectrum band drew a crowd Wednesday (April 1). 

He plans to vote on the item at the April 23 meeting, or if it is another COVID-19-driven teleconference meeting, likely voted a little before that. 

Pai circulated the item Wednesday for the proposed vote.  

“We welcome the Commission’s effort to utilize the 6 GHz band to advance the next-generation of superfast WiFi connectivity while protecting existing users," said NCTA-The Internet & Television Association. "As we work from home, learn at a distance, use telemedicine services, stay informed, and play online, this spectrum band will be critical to delivering high-speed connections that nearly every consumer relies on. We look forward to working with the Chairman, Commissioners, and staff to advance this item which will enable our WiFi networks to keep up with the significantly growing demand of our digital lives.” 

Related: O'Rielly, Rosenworcel Signal CTIA's 6 GHz Proposal Isn't Way to Go 

"The last few weeks of lifeline coronavirus coverage by local TV stations have made crystal clear the value of the 6 GHz band to broadcasters and the viewers we serve," said National Association of Broadcasters EVP Dennis Wharton. "If broadcasters are to continue providing news coverage that is trusted in a crisis, we need spectrum to provide that service.

"We have previously witnessed the negative impact WiFi operations have caused to spectrum broadcasters use to cover breaking news. Opening the entire 6 GHz band to unlicensed use without strong safeguards risks locking the FCC into a mistake it cannot correct. We look forward to engaging with the FCC to discuss potential solutions, including appropriate power levels, methods for restricting indoor-only operations, and other options to protect broadcaster uses.” 

The WiFi Alliance, whose members include cable ops looking for more unlicensed spectrum for their hot spots, was applauding. 

"WiFi Alliance commends FCC chairman Pai on the momentous decision to sustain America’s technological leadership, maximize public benefit of the 6 GHz spectrum resource, and unleash the power of ubiquitous WiFi connectivity by moving ahead with the 6 GHz order," the group said. "Ensuring necessary unlicensed spectrum access is critical for WiFi--which now more than ever--keeps us connected, supports our communications infrastructure, and delivers major economic benefits. WiFi Alliance and its members are ready to deliver new 6 GHz use cases and urge the Commission to support the chairman’s proposal." 

"The WiFi industry is grateful for FCC chairman Pai’s bold leadership aimed at transforming our connected experience for the next generation," added alliance president Edgar Figueroa. "Our industry stands ready to deliver on chairman Pai's expectation of "a huge benefit to consumers and innovators across the nation."

“Intel commends the FCC for opening the 6 GHz spectrum band for unlicensed operation, which will significantly improve WiFi for all Americans," said Gregory Bryant, executive VP and general manager Intel's client computing group. "Our nation’s reliance on digital connectivity has become more apparent than ever, and this Report and Order will enable significant new capacity, ensuring a solid future growth path for the Wi-Fi ecosystem relied upon by millions of homes and businesses."

“We support the FCC’s efforts to make the lower half of the 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use and will continue to work closely with the commission to ensure rigorous protections for licensed services already existing in the band," said CTIA executive VP Brad Gillen. "While the FCC has done a remarkable job freeing up critical licensed spectrum for 5G, the United States faces a growing mid-band deficit. It is essential that the FCC and the administration develop a roadmap to close this deficit before moving forward with plans to give away the full 1200 MHz in the 6 GHz band and further limit our few remaining options.” 

“Over the last few years, I have heard from entrepreneurs and innovators discussing how dramatic the impact would be of unleashing such a large unlicensed allocation with seven 160 megahertz channels," said commissioner Michael O'Rielly. "I can’t wait to see, and use, the new services and ideas brought forward because of our work here. Conclusion of the further notice, which must be done this year, should provide further improvements and functionality.

“Today’s action to permit all 1200 megahertz of the band to be used for unlicensed services means that proposals [CTIA had one of them] to license portions of the band were not accepted. I fully support this outcome, but I also remain fully committed to identifying other mid-bands for licensed services."

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.