The FCC is looking up, way up, as Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel put it, to find new spectrum for mobile wireless broadband.
The commissioner Friday voted 5-0 to open a notice of inquiry on using spectrum above 24 GHz for wireless and facilitating its deployment.
Rosenworcel has been stumping for expanding the search for spectrum for the next generation of mobile wireless (5G) beyond the "sweet spot" of 600 MHZ to 3 GHz.
The FCC NOI seeks comment on the technology required to use high frequencies for mobile, which could potentially allow for up to 10 gbps service, without interfering with incumbent users. It also will seek comment on a variety of licensing mechanisms, including auctioning geographic licenses and unlicensed use.
Roseworcel said that if the FCC wanted to translate its leadership in 4G to the next generation, it needed to look "Way, way, up. To infinity and beyond. We need to bust through our old 3 GHz ceiling. Let’s take a look at spectrum all the way up in the 60 GHz range—and maybe all the way to 90 GHz. At these ranges we can aggregate spectrum and allow data intensive applications to ride across hundreds of megahertz at a time."
Commissioner Michael O'Rielly agreed that those frequencies needed to be explore, but cautioned that they might or might not be used for 5G, suggesting the FCC needed to "sharpen its lexicon."
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said he hoped the NOI would encourage companies to research 5G, and said he looked forward to seeing some of that research for himself when he visited Samsung in Texas.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he agreed that he didn't know whether it would be called millimeter wave or 5G, but added: "Who cares what it is called. Let's make sure we harness it, then we will decide what to call it.
"I welcome the FCC’s Spectrum Horizons Notice of Inquiry, which explores the use of spectrum above 24 GHz, and we look forward to participating in the examination," said CTIA: The Wireless Association President Meredith Attwell Baker. "While we will always work to locate more cleared licensed spectrum under 3 GHz, we also need to expand our search to find other complementary spectrum bands, and this Notice is an important step in that effort. I commend the Commission’s forward-looking approach to spectrum policy.”