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FCC Chairman Proposes a 5G Wireless Study

Tom Wheeler proposes that the FCC undertake an in-depth study to find out if the existing high-band spectrum can support 5G.


Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is looking to the future of wireless communications and wonders whether the existing high-band spectrum could work with next-generation 5G services.

To learn the answers to that question, and a myriad of related technical questions, Wheeler is proposing that the FCC undertake an in-depth study to find out if the high-band spectrum can support 5G.

The FCC chairman raised the issue in a Sept. 26 post, "Meeting the Mobile Moment," on the Official FCC Blog, where he called for such a study to be explored.

The recent "record-setting launch of the new iPhone is just the latest reminder that our appetite for new mobile technologies appears to be insatiable," wrote Wheeler. "And this continuous cycle of mobile innovation is not only delighting U.S. consumers, it's a major force in driving economic growth, boosting U.S. competitiveness, and enabling solutions to challenges like education and health care."

With that in mind, he continued, "Seizing the opportunities of mobile innovation is one of the FCC's highest priorities," including opening more spectrum to broadband uses, as well as ensuring more efficient and effective use of the existing spectrum.

"High-speed mobile broadband requires high-speed broadband build-out," he wrote. "However, the regulatory burdens associated with deployments can be expensive and time-consuming. We have to fix that."

One way to do that, he wrote, is to more deeply explore the existing broadband spectrum "to think creatively about how to make more spectrum available and increase the efficiency of its use."

In the past, mobile wireless services have been targeted at bands below 3GHz due to technological and practical limitations, he wrote. "However, there have been significant developments in antenna and processing technologies that may allow the use of higher frequencies—in this case those above 24 GHz—for mobile applications."

That's where a new study of such possibilities will come in, according to Wheeler.

"Acting on a recommendation of the Commission's Technological Advisory Council, I am circulating to my fellow commissioners a Notice of Inquiry that seeks to broaden the Commission's understanding of the state of the art in technological developments that will enable the use of millimeter wave spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile wireless services," wrote Wheeler. "Early studies show that these new technologies—what some are calling '5G'—can ultimately facilitate a throughput of up to 10 Gigabits/second, a speed that is orders of magnitude greater than that available today. Our effort here is to learn about the technology and ensure a regulatory environment where these technologies can flourish."

Wheeler's proposal for the study is expected to be reviewed by the FCC in the near future.

A spokesman for the agency did not respond to an Oct. 2 inquiry from eWEEK for comment on the matter.