FCC's Wheeler points to 600 MHz for '5G coverage layer,' promises to study spectrum above 6 GHz

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler pointed to the 600 MHz spectrum band as a potential "wide-area 5G coverage layer" in an FCC post. He also promised investigation into higher-frequency spectrum as a means of pushing 5G forward.

Wheeler's post said the upcoming 600 MHz spectrum auction, slated for early 2016, makes the 600 MHz band a "prime candidate" for 5G consideration. "In much the same way that 700 MHz paved the way for America's world-leading deployment of 4G, so could 600 MHz accelerate U.S. deployment of 5G," he said.

The FCC currently expects to auction 600 MHz spectrum for mobile broadband sometime next year. The auction is contingent on getting TV broadcasters to relinquish a portion of their radio waves in a reverse auction -- those radio waves would then be made available to wireless carriers and other bidders in a forward auction.

In addition to pointing to the 600 MHz band as a 5G option, Wheeler also promised FCC investigation into identifying appropriate high-frequency spectrum bands above 6 GHz. In the fall of 2014, the FCC adopted a Notice of Inquiry regarding research into those bands. Wheeler said in his post that the agency could issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to further the issue.

Importantly, Wheeler said the agency would look at releasing both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and would consider spectrum-sharing scenarios as well. Such comments are noteworthy considering most experts in the wireless industry believe 5G services will run over both licensed and unlicensed radio waves.

Wheeler also said the Commission will continue to push for research into 5G and consistent 5G standards on an international level at this year's World Radiocommunication Conference.

"At the upcoming 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), we will continue to support harmonized international spectrum allocations for mobile broadband and will encourage the adoption of a plan for identifying spectrum for mobile technologies in higher-frequency bands with the aim of reaching decisions regarding spectrum for mobile use at the next WRC, which is expected to be held in 2019," Wheeler said.

The United States plans to propose spectrum bands including 27.5-29.5 GHz, 37-40.5 GHz, 47.2-50.2 GHz, 50.4-52.6 GHz and 59.3-71 GHz at WRC 2019.

For more:
- see Wheeler's post
- RCR Wireless has this article

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