FCC's Rosenworcel Talks Up 6G

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel blew right past 5G this week to focus on sixth-generation wireless broadband.

That came in a speech to the Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles, where she also offered up her idea for the blockchain distributed computing system that has been generating plenty of buzz.

She envisioned 6G as featuring "terahertz-frequency networks and spatial multiplexing" with multiple simultaneous beams of data transfer, all requiring unprecedented network "densification," as in miniaturized base stations imbedded ubiquitously in the environment.

Rosenworcel conceded she was talking about a "far out" event horizon when she talked about 6G, but suggested that required some near term reassessment of government policies.

Rosenworcel said the spectrum policies that need rethinking in the advance of that 6G future are valuation, auctions and distribution.

She focused the valuation reassessment on the fact that spectrum decisions in Congress have to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Scoring means putting a dollar figure on a policy's impact on the budget and deficit. CBO scores spectrum for unlicensed use as "zero" positive budgetary impact. Rosenworcel, a big unlicensed fan, said it is clear that Wi-Fi ads a multi-billion boost to the broader economy.

Certainly cable operators would argue it is integral to reaching their increasingly mobile broadband customers.

On the auction front, she argues that the FCC auctions are a success story, but a playbook that needs updating given increasing consolidation that reduces the number of available bidders. She also says the reverse auctions--like those used in the broadcast incentive auction and recent CAF II subsidy auction--should be extended to other spectrum.

On the distribution end, Rosenworcel argues for more dynamic sharing rather than the binary licensed/unlicensed model. She also proposed a blockchain approach to spectrum management--blockchains are distributed and linked blocks of data (databases) that can be updated without a central server (it was created as the public ledger for Bitcoin transactions).

"Instead of having a centralized database to support shared access in specific spectrum bands, we could explore the use of blockchain as a lower-cost alternative," she said. "If the effort succeeds, this could reduce the administrative expense of dynamic access systems and increase spectral efficiency. We also could foster new hierarchies of band-specific rights and new models for lightweight leasing."

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.