Utilities Seek Pause in 6 GHz Certifications

Exterior of the FCC building in Washington, D.C.
(Image credit: FCC)

Utility companies and others are pitching the new FCC acting chair and commissioners on pausing any further certification for unlicensed devices in the 6 GHz band, which the FCC voted unanimously to open up for WiFi.

In a letter to the commissioners, public safety and power companies asked them to immediately "pause any additional equipment certification approvals for 6 GHz unlicensed low-power indoor ('LPI') devices" until more testing can be done.

Also Read: Utilities Sue Over 6 GHz Order

The FCC voted unanimously April 23, 2020 to allow the entire 1200 MHz of the 6 GHz band to be shared with unlicensed WiFi, the FCC's latest move in freeing up more spectrum for connecting 5G in-home devices--video streaming, video calls--and connecting IoT devices to the internet. 

Cable operators supported the proposal, while broadcasters argued for protecting the electronic news gathering (ENG) already using the band by reserving 80 MHz for them, saying there was too much risk of harmful interference to that even-more-crucial service in a time of pandemic.

FCC engineers concluded that the band could be shared and ENG protected, with the conditions the FCC has imposed, and the FCC commissioners agreed.

But in the COVID-19 appropriations act, some members of Congress suggested more needed to be done. 

"The FCC is directed to provide a report to the Committees within 90 days of enactment of this Act [by March 27] on its progress in ensuring rigorous testing related to unlicensed use of the 6 gigahertz band," the groups pointed out, quoting from the legislation. They said they were eager to get such rigorous testing underway.

Also Read: NCTA, OTI Oppose 6 GHz Recon Petitions

WiFi Forward, whose members include cable broadband operators that rely on WiFi for their primary mobile broadband play, urged the FCC not to pause certification.

"The FCC unanimously ruled that Wi-Fi and point-to-point microwave systems can safely share the 6 GHz band," WiFi Forward said in a statement. "It did so after an exhaustive technical proceeding and having considered extensive engineering submissions by all sides. And now consumers are benefitting as companies seek final FCC certification and bring new devices to market. Americans need more Wi-Fi spectrum and devices now more than ever before and this careful process should continue."

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.