Amazon tells FCC to reject T-Mobile, CTIA, CCA efforts to get more licensed high-band spectrum

Amazon fulfillment center
Amazon says its fulfillment centers rely on unlicensed spectrum for powering things like mobile bar card scanners as associates sort and pack items for delivery. (Amazon)

Dismissing claims by CTIA, T-Mobile and the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), Amazon is voicing support for the FCC’s decision on unlicensed operations in the 64-71 GHz band.

Amazon executives recently met with FCC advisers to commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Mignon Clyburn to discuss aspects of the commission’s Spectrum Frontiers proceeding on spectrum above 24 GHz. Amazon says the availability of unlicensed spectrum is of great interest to Amazon and its 180,000 U.S. employees.

Not only does Amazon sell devices like the Kindle, Echo and Fire TV stick that use unlicensed spectrum, but Amazon itself uses unlicensed spectrum in its network of more than 70 fulfillment centers across the country.

It’s not just for people; it’s for robots, too. “Unlicensed spectrum empowers mobile bar card scanners as associates sort and pack items for delivery, and also enables autonomous mobile robots to automate fulfillment center operations,” the company wrote in an ex parte filing. “Amazon also makes use of unlicensed spectrum in testing and operating future customer innovations like the Prime Air drone delivery system and the Amazon Go store, which enables a checkout-free shopping experience.”

Boeing made a similar argument earlier this year about the need for 64-71 GHz unlicensed spectrum in that its manufacturing facilities also depend on unlicensed spectrum for their operations. Boeing told the FCC to view with skepticism the proposals of wireless carriers to carve off yet another segment of spectrum for their exclusive use.

CCA has told the commission that the decision to allocate the entire 64-71 GHz band for unlicensed use will negatively impact the future of mobile terrestrial 5G services. CCA doesn’t dispute the value of unlicensed spectrum, but it argues that exclusive license of this band, or at least a portion of it, will optimize its use and that the FCC’s Report and Order as a general matter unduly prioritized unlicensed spectrum at the expense of licensed use.

CTIA has complained that the commission has allocated significantly less spectrum for licensed use, and even then a significant portion of the licensed spectrum is for shared use. T-Mobile has argued that licensed use in the 64-71 GHz band would encourage investment in new technologies.

The Amazon executives also mentioned jobs in their pitch to the FCC, saying support for more unlicensed spectrum will play a critical role in the development of innovative wireless devices and new products and technologies that offer consumers new services and help Amazon create new jobs.

The company has announced that it will be hiring tens of thousands more people for part-time work in 2017.