Boeing wants FCC to consider 57-71 GHz band for use on board aircraft

Boeing factory (Boeing)
Boeing's Everett, Washington, site is the largest manufacturing building in the world, and its production systems rely on access to unlicensed spectrum. (Boeing)

Unlicensed spectrum is a key resource for Boeing and other major manufacturers, and the aerospace giant doesn't want the U.S. to cede any more than necessary to wireless carriers' licensed interests.

Arguing that the full 64-71 GHz band should be available for use by unlicensed devices, Boeing is telling the FCC that it should view with skepticism the proposals of wireless carriers to carve off yet another segment of spectrum for their exclusive use. The FCC is accepting comments as part of its rulemaking to unleash gobs of high-band spectrum for licensed and unlicensed use.

Interestingly, Boeing is also urging the commission to permit Part 15 operations in the 57-71 GHz band on aircraft, which it says can benefit end users and aircraft operators without increasing the risk of interference to radio astronomy.

Boeing, whose Everett, Washington, site is the largest manufacturing building in the world, uses unlicensed spectrum within its facilities, but its existing operations have consumed all available unlicensed spectrum at the site. In order to make continuing improvements to production and productivity necessary for global competitiveness, its facilities and others like them depend on access to more unlicensed spectrum, the company explained in a Jan. 31 filing with the FCC.

Boeing has been an active participant throughout the millimeter-wave proceeding, and last year it filed an application with the FCC to launch and operate a geostationary satellite orbit fixed satellite service system operating in low Earth orbit in the 37.5-42.5, 47.2-50.2 and 50.4-52.4 GHz bands, collectively known as the V-band. In so doing, it put its hat into the same ring as companies like SpaceX and OneWeb.

As for Boeing’s recommendation on using the 57-71 GHz band on board aircraft, Boeing said it has been working with aerospace companies and millimeter-wave equipment manufacturers to analyze and test the propagation characteristics of mmWave transmissions in the 51-71 GHz band.

Initial results show that emissions from mmWave systems on board aircraft will not cause interference to incumbent radio astronomy systems. Boeing said it is working with others in the industry to document the results of studies and will share that information with the FCC as well as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Radio Frequencies.

As Boeing noted in previous proceedings, the fuselage of a modern aircraft provides a high degree of shielding, substantially reducing or effectively eliminating emissions external to the aircraft from low-power devices used within the plane’s cabin. “Such attenuation is a natural result of aircraft fuselage construction materials, and is also intentionally enhanced to shield aircraft systems, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner,” Boeing told the commission.