FCC changes rules in 57-64 GHz band to enhance wireless backhaul

The FCC on Friday voted unanimously to change rules in the 57-64 GHz band, commonly known as the 60 GHz band, that it said will improve the use of unlicensed spectrum for high-capacity, short‑range outdoor backhaul, especially for small cells.

In envisioning the results of the order, the FCC said the new rules could provide wireless broadband network connectivity over distances up to a mile at data rates of 7 Gbps, "potentially relieving the need and expense of wiring facilities or using existing facilities with less capability."  The FCC said the rules for equipment located indoors will remain unchanged, "providing regulatory certainty for an emerging family of products that can provide data rates of 7 Gb/s for applications such as wireless docking of digital devices and distribution of uncompressed video to TV receivers and video displays."

The rules changes date back to commission orders from the 1990s, when the FCC adopted rules for unlicensed operations in the 57-64 GHz band.  Because of the 7-GHz-wide bandwidth, the airwaves are especially good for high‑capacity uses, both in point‑to‑point fixed operations outdoors for backhaul extensions and for networking equipment indoors, such as letting users to send data between HD TVs and video players within the same room.

Following a petition by the industry, the FCC voted to increase the power permitted for outdoor operations between fixed points using highly directional antennas, and tied the maximum power permitted to the precision of the antenna beam which determines its potential for causing interference to other users, including to indoor low-power networks.  The FCC said the rule modifications would permit outdoor devices to deliver high-capacity connections over longer distances, enhancing the utility of the unlicensed 57-64 GHz band. The spectrum is also highly suitable as a backhaul alternative for LTE networks in urban areas, the FCC noted. 

The FCC's rule change "allows a sensible increase in power levels, eliminates the obsolete mandate that devices transmit identification information, and streamlines other rules,"  Commissioner Ajit Pai said, according to Multichannel News. "In sum, it makes using 60 GHz spectrum easier and less expensive."

Harold Feld, senior vice president of public interties group Public Knowledge, told Ars Technica that these transmissions will be "good for links around natural breaks in terrain or building to building in urban areas. In rural areas, they put these on grain silos."

Blu Wireless Technology recently said it will use proceeds from its latest funding round to complete development of its Hydra 60 GHz baseband IP offering for 802.11ad WiGig service as well as to pursue related mobile network backhaul applications for 4G networks.

The startup--founded in 2009 and based in Bristol, UK--raised about $3.1 million of new funding. The round was led by Qi3 Accelerator, which represented a syndicate of more than $1.5 million from London Business Angels private investors, including Wren Capital. A further $0.9 million was invested by the Angel Co-Fund, and several additional investors made up the remainder.

WiGig is based on the 802.11ad standard and operates in the unlicensed 60 GHz band. It offers short-range multi-gigabit connections with speeds up to 7 Gbps.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Multichannel News article
- see this Ars Technica article

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