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FCC Updates Rules For Unlicensed 60-GHz Band

Commission's rule change allows increase in power levels, promotes competition and lower costs in the broadband market.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted a rule change surrounding ultra-high frequency spectrum in the 57-64 GHz range -- commonly referred to as 60 GHz. The rule modifications will allow higher emission limits for 60-GHz devices that operate outdoors, enabling broader deployment of point-to-point broadband systems.

In an open meeting on Friday, FCC acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn and commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai unanimously voted on a Report and Order addressing technical requirements for 60-GHz services and related equipment, such as short range, outdoor point-to-point systems that extend the reach of fiber networks. By allowing longer communication distances for unlicensed 60-GHz point-to-point systems, there will be opportunity for additional competition in the broadband market and lower-cost, higher-capacity commercial and consumer wireless services, said FCC Office of Engineering and Technology's chief Julius Knapp.

Several devices can operate in this band without interference, offering additional benefits, Knapp said. "The frequency can be used outdoors to send unlicensed signals from one building to the next, extending fiber optics between buildings without the need for construction, while also increasing power limits," he added. "Second, it can be used indoors for a new Wi-Fi standard 802.11ad to support high-definition streaming."

[ The FCC must ensure that spectrum auction is fair to all wireless carriers. Read more: FCC Needs To Be A Spectrum Hero. ]

The 802.11ad standard -- also known as WiGig in consumer circles -- was adopted by the IEEE in January, promising 7-Gbps speeds over 60-GHz frequency. Consumer electronics using 802.11ad are anticipated later this year. The order adjusts rules to accommodate such devices that allow users, for example, to wirelessly stream video from a computer to a TV. "That is only one neat way to use this technology, because there is endless cool that can come with your own personal wireless network," said Rosenworcel.

Approximately 15 years ago, the FCC opened spectrum in the 57-64-GHz band for the development of unlicensed, short-range devices. The Commission concluded that by making changes to technical requirements -- specifically, Part 15 of the rules -- it's taking an important step to encourage technological developments in the frequency band and to help manufacturers lower cost of equipment.

In the same meeting, the FCC unanimously voted on another order that updates Part 25 of the Commission's rules to promote more rapid deployment of new satellite services to the public. Fixed and mobile satellites offer temporary solutions in the aftermath of disasters, are critical for first responders, and serve remote communities worldwide. FCC said it has eliminated unnecessary technical and information filing requirements and simplified the rules to accommodate evolving technology.

The modifications are meant to expedite licensing processes for space stations and earth stations, which transmit radio signals between the ground and satellites. "Coming up with the order didn't just take a village. It took a constellation," said FCC's International Bureau chief Mindel De La Torre.

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