Rosenworcel Calls for Scheduling Next Spectrum Auction

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said it is past time for talk and high time for action to free up more high-band spectrum.

That came as the FCC voted unanimously at its public meeting Thursday (Feb. 22) to widen its "Spectrum Horizons" by launching a rulemaking proposal to make spectrum above 95 GHz more accessible.

Currently, the FCC does not have to allow for either licensed or unlicensed communications above 95 GHz, other than amateur operators or experimental operations.

"Specifically," the FCC said, "the item seeks comment on making a total of 102.2 gigahertz of spectrum available for licensed point-to-point services. These bands would be licensed on a nationwide, non-exclusive basis and individual point-to-point links would be registered with a database manager. Because of the vast amount of spectrum potentially available, the point-to-point links hold the capability to transmit at much higher data rates than systems in lower frequency bands."

It also proposes creating a new category of more flexible experimental licenses with longer terms and transferability.

Rosenworcel said the FCC should be willing to "reorganize" the bands and free up more for unlicensed usses. She also took issue with the proposal to reward first-in registrants for use even absent any actual construction.

But her main point was that it is not time for more "rulemaking and studying," but for action.

"We need to announce our next spectrum auction," she said. "While we don’t have one on the calendar, other nations are moving ahead at warp speed with the auction of 5G airwaves. South Korea, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom and Romania already have announced auction plans for this year. Why are we not on this list?"

Republican commissioner Brendan Carr was more sanguine about the FCC item.

"Our rules have tended to limit innovation in the bands above 95 GHz," Carr said. "We turn the corner today by proposing to open up large swaths of this spectrum for licensed, unlicensed, and experimental use. This should help ensure that innovators and entrepreneurs in the U.S. have the incentives to invest and develop new technologies for the benefit of American consumers."

Mobile Future said of the NPRM: "With today’s Spectrum Horizons Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC voted to expand opportunities for wireless innovation and investment. Thanks to rapid advances in technology, we are able to push the boundaries on the realm of the possible for the use of these super high frequency airwaves. Opening up new spectrum horizons will give America an edge in the global competition to deploy next generation networks. Mobile Future looks forward to continuing to work with the Commission to advance spectrum policies that unleash innovation and strengthen our wireless economy."

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.