FCC Announcement Makes New Spectrum Available for Millimeter Wave

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September 14, 2016

The FCC recently announced new spectrum for millimeter wave. The new rules open nearly 11 gigahertz of high-frequency spectrum for mobile and fixed wireless broadband, which include 3.85 GHz of currently licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum. This decision could prove critical for the U.S. to retain its leadership in the field of wireless communications.

“This move is great news,” WNCG Prof. Robert Heath states. “WNCG is heavily invested in the development of millimeter wave communication in general, and specifically in 5G cellular communication systems. The FCC’s move puts the U.S. at the forefront of the development of millimeter wave for 5G.”

According to the FCC, the new order was designed to ensure that a wide array of users, including satellite, terrestrial, fixed and mobile, can coexist and expand. This announcement could affect the development of 5G cellular communications, broadband internet access, connected vehicles, wearable devices, and other technologies that use millimeter wave spectrum.

“The main benefit of this development is that specific spectral blocks have been identified,” Prof. Heath states. “This means companies can start to develop hardware specifically for these frequency bands. The main outcome is cost reduction.”

For WNCG, this means the opportunity for even greater development of research projects in this area. WNCG has many projects involving millimeter wave communication. These projects include connected vehicles that use millimeter wave, broadband millimeter wave transceivers, low resolution methods, performance analysis of millimeter wave cellular systems, spectrum sharing in the millimeter wave and other topics. Key WNCG researchers in this area include Profs. Heath, Jeffrey Andrews and Gustavo de Veciana.

WNCG has played a leading role in the 5G and millimeter wave arena, including co-authoring a book on this topic, entitled Millimeter Wave Wireless Communications with WNCG founder and NYU Wireless Director Theodore Rappaport, as well as a NOW monograph entitled Millimeter Wave Vehicular Communications: A Survey

“Millimeter wave is the enabler of gigabit-per-second data rates for 5G. This enables new applications with ultra high definition video, augmented reality and virtual reality. It also allows remote driving of vehicles, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and robots through high data rate, low-latency links,” Prof. Heath mentions.

Along with triumphs, Prof. Heath mentions, this announcement could also fuel new challenges if these frequencies are not standardized by other countries as well. If U.S. frequencies are different than frequencies used in other parts of the world, then the developed hardware will have to become more specialized.

According to Fierce Wireless, this new spectrum could fuel the next generation of wireless. Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, agrees.

“This is one of the, if not the most, important decisions this agency will make this year,” Wheeler states. “By becoming the first nation to identify high-band spectrum, the United States is ushering in the 5G era of high capacity, high-speed, low-latency wireless networks. By not getting involved in the technologies that will use the spectrum, we're turning loose the incredible innovators of this country.”