Time Warner Cable anxious to exploit expanded 5 GHz access for 'community Wi-Fi'

Two FCC waivers being sought by Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) reveal the cable operator is chomping at the bit to make use of the 100 MHz of 5 GHz U-NII-1 band spectrum that the commission voted in March to open up for broad, unlicensed Wi-Fi use.

The March order eliminated a rule that had prohibited outdoor Wi-Fi operations in the U-NII-1 band and also increased allowable power levels in the band. The commission's order allows the use, under certain conditions, of existing Wi-Fi equipment designed to operate in the commonly used U-NII-3 band (5.725-5.825 MHz) in the newly opened U-NII-1 band (5150-5250 MHz.)

The FCC's decision was heralded as a significant shot in the arm for service providers, cable MSOs in particular, looking to push more data traffic to Wi-Fi. And Time Warner has wasted little time jumping on the opportunity.

The company filed two waiver requests on July 1. One seeks authority to operate 20,000 existing, non-compliant U-NII-3 access points in the U-NII-1 band as allowed by the FCC's order. A second, supplemental waiver request seeks permission to operate up to 10,000 new, non-compliant U-NII-3 devices in the U-NII-1 band as well.

In explaining the reasoning behind Time Warner's supplemental waiver request, Terri Natoli, vice president of regulatory affairs, wrote: "TWC is seeking waiver authority for an additional 10,000 U-NII-3 devices that it has not yet deployed but might deploy in conjunction with its community Wi-Fi network development plans over the next 12 months."

Natoli noted that Time Warner anticipates needing that waiver because it may have to deploy some U-NII-3 equipment "before its equipment vendors have obtained the necessary certifications for new device operations in the U-NII-1 band."

The commission specifically permitted outdoor operations of fixed access points in the U-NII-1 band if they are conducted at a power level of up to 1 watt (30 dBm), and a power spectral density (PSD) of 17 dBm/MHz with an allowance for a 6 dBi antenna gain, that is, a total 36 dBm effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP). They must also limit the maximum EIRP above 30 degrees elevation to 125 milliwatts (21 dBm) EIRP.

For already-installed outdoor U-NII-3 band systems that are unable to comply with this EIRP requirement, the FCC encouraged manufacturers or equipment operators to file for a waiver of certain technical requirements for operation in the U-NII-1 band, as Time Warner did with its initial waiver request for the 20,000 existing access points.

By placing technical limits on the amount of energy that can be directed up toward its satellites, the FCC intended to protect incumbent U-NII-1 user Globalstar. For that same reason, companies must notify the commission if they are deploying more than 1,000 access points in the U-NII-1 band.

L. Barbee Ponder, Globalstar's general counsel and vice president of regulatory affairs, told FierceWirelessTech that Time Warner's waiver request to use 20,000 existing but non-compliant access points in the U-NII-1 band "appears consistent with the waiver mechanism laid out in the FCC's 5 GHz U-NII-1 order."

However, he said the second request involving 10,000 new access points "is inconsistent with the FCC's order." Footnote 67 in that order directs that new outdoor devices using the U-NII-1 band, including those operating at 250 milliwatts or below, are required to observe EIRP limits.

"Given its inconsistency, TWC's second request should be subject to a different standard for review," Ponder said.

For more:
- see this Time Warner Cable filing (PDF) and this filing (PDF)

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Globalstar open to outdoor Wi-Fi 5.1 GHz if its operations can be protected
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