Facebook subsidiary FCL Tech seeks authority for 6 GHz tests

Facebook campus
FCL Tech wants to use the 6 GHz band to conduct tests in Menlo Park, California, where its campus is based. (FierceWireless)

FCL Tech, a subsidiary of Facebook, is asking the FCC for permission to conduct tests in Menlo Park, California, using 6 GHz spectrum.

Unearthed by wireless consulting engineer Steve Crowley, the application lists Ceragon as the equipment manufacturer. The intention is to start operations no sooner than March 25 and end by Sept. 1, 2019.

FCL explained it wants to evaluate the performance of point-to-point radio equipment using a limited set of tests, but little else is revealed in the filing.

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However, Facebook has made no secret of its interest in seeing the entire 6 GHz band opened up for unlicensed technologies while protecting existing users. It’s part of a group of tech companies lobbying for that to happen.

Among other things, they say making the 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use will allow Wi-Fi 6 to reach its full potential. Wi-Fi 6 uses new technologies to increase Wi-Fi’s ability to support high traffic loads, hyperdense deployments and latency-sensitive services with increased spectrum efficiency, range, reliability and security.

RELATED: Google, Facebook, others press for 6 GHz rulemaking

Like its cohorts in the tech company coalition, Facebook is urging the FCC to make some changes to its proposed rules for the band.

Facebook actually has six asks that it outlined in its own Feb. 15 filing (PDF), including a recommendation that the FCC take the opportunity to encourage rural broadband deployment in the 6 GHz band by allowing new technologies, like phased array high gain antennas, to be used on an unlicensed basis.

Facebook acknowledged that, with its partners, it has launched several initiatives focused on connecting the unconnected and under-connected in rural areas—the high cost of rural deployments is a major impediment to connectivity in rural and even some suburban areas.

“To promote rural broadband deployment in the 6 GHz band, the Commission should allow phased array antennas with steerable beams for outdoor unlicensed operations and devices in point-to-multipoint (P2MP) fixed configurations, which would enable a critical rural connectivity use case,” the social network giant told the commission. “At this time, under current Part 101 rules, it is not clear that phased array antennas with steerable beams are permitted, and the rules are burdensome for small operators.”

RELATED: Wi-Fi Alliance presses for modifications in 6 GHz rules

Rural wireless internet service providers (WISPs) must use equipment optimized for point-to-point links and register each link under the FCC’s Part 101 framework. By clarifying that phased array antennas, possibly based on Wi-Fi technology, with steerable beams may be used on an unlicensed basis, the commission will allow WISPs to use less costly equipment under a less cumbersome registration framework, which would lower costs overall and ease deployment, according to Facebook.

Facebook is just one of many weighing in on the 6 GHz proceeding. On March 4, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology denied a request (PDF) by the Ultra Wide Band (UWB) Alliance to extend the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) comment period. The alliance sought an additional 14 days, to April 1, but the commission said it’s sticking with the March 18 deadline for reply comments on proposed 6 GHz band rules.

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