Qualcomm, Facebook, Google want new rules for 60 GHz

The companies are concerned about interference from various types of technologies in the band. (Getty Images)

A group of companies including Qualcomm, Facebook, Google, Intel and Samsung have formed a 60 GHz Coexistence Study Group because they’re concerned about drones and other radar devices being used in the unlicensed 60 GHz spectrum.

The companies sent a letter to Marlene Dortch, the Secretary of the Federal Communications Commission, urging the FCC to address a range of technical and policy issues for users of the 60 GHz band, including concerns that some technologies that use radar will interfere with other technologies using the spectrum.

The group’s concern about use of the band was galvanized by two companies that are seeking waivers from the FCC to use the spectrum. Leica Geosystems has asked the FCC to allow the operation of its drones in the 60-64 GHz portion of the 60 GHz band. And Vayyar Imaging is seeking a waiver to allow its interactive motion sensing device to operate within 57-64 GHz.

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“These waiver requests, which both seek the FCC’s permission to operate unlicensed radar equipment at higher power levels than currently allowed for such equipment under FCC Rule Section 15.255, exemplify the growing interest across industry in new wireless technologies that seek to use the 60 GHz band,” states the group’s letter. “These recurring requests for special relief outside of the current FCC rules confirm the need for the FCC to improve its regulatory framework governing unlicensed use of the 60 GHz band.”

Dean Brenner, Qualcomm’s SVP for spectrum strategy and technology policy, said Qualcomm is interested in the 60 GHz band for a variety of reasons. For instance, Qualcomm has been active in developing chips for 802.11ad technology – or WiGig – for the 60 GHz band. The WiGig specification allows devices to communicate without wires at multi-gigabit speeds.

“The thing is: there’s a lot of cross-pollination between our original work for 60 GHz, which predated 5G, then a lot of that work became highly relevant when the FCC started looking at mmWave for 5G,” said Brenner. “We’ve been working on advanced antenna technologies to use that spectrum for a long time.”

RELATED: Qualcomm unveils 60 GHz Wi-Fi chipsets for WiGig devices

John Kuzin, Qualcomm’s VP and regulatory counsel for government affairs, added, “Any unlicensed band can also be used for 5G, and our unlicensed technology for this band can support both Wi-Fi and 5G on the communications element.” In fact, the 3GPP's Release 17 will expand the 5G standards to the 60 GHz band.

The 60 GHz spectrum can also be used for fixed wireless access (FWA) based on Facebook’s Terragraph technology.

Facebook established its Terragraph mmWave technology to meet demand for high-speed Internet in both urban and suburban areas as well as remote rural areas. Terragraph uses the 60 GHz frequency and mmWave radios to create a distributed wireless mesh network. Facebook claims it is able to deliver “fiber-like speeds” at a fraction of the cost of deploying new fiber.

RELATED: Facebook’s Terragraph technology to get chipsets from Qualcomm

Brenner said Terragraph “is basically using 60 GHz as a mesh network type backhaul.” He stressed Terragraph’s value to bring connectivity to places where there’s no fiber such as schools and hospitals in rural areas as well as for connectivity in third-world countries. But Facebook has also worked with companies such as Common Networks to use Terragraph as part of a fixed wireless access offering for cities in Silicon Valley.

What does the 60 GHz Coexistence Study Group want?

Kuzin and Brenner said there is a lot of interest in the 60 GHz band lately from a variety of companies. And the parties who sent the letter to the FCC aren’t trying to prevent innovative uses of the spectrum. They just want the rules to be clearly spelled out.

They say more clarity is needed to preserve reasonable coexistence between radar technologies and field disturbance sensors, which require higher power levels than currently permitted. And they don’t think the answer is to constantly issue new waivers. The participating companies are calling on the FCC to commence a comprehensive rule-making proceeding to ensure reasonable coexistence in the band.

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