The FCC is set to vote Thursday on opening the entire 6 GHz band to unlicensed wireless use, specifically WiFi. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the wireless industry consider the mid-band spectrum vital for 5G. The NAB is concerned unlicensed operations in the band (5.925-7.125 GHz) could interfere with stations’ 6 GHz use for electronic news gathering.
Tuesday, the broadcast trade lobby responded to a letter by the Open Technology Institute at New America that downplays broadcasters’ interference concerns. OTI also opposed a compromise offered by the NAB.
The compromise? The Commission could still make seven such channels available in 1,120 MHz, while preserving 80 MHz at the top of the 6 GHz band. Those channels would not be authorized for LPI but would continue to be available for authorized mobile operations, said the NAB. It calls the available channels “a staggering amount of spectrum.”
In a blog post, NAB VP Strategic Planning Patrick McFadden notes OTI isn’t alone, that in February, several conservative groups wrote to tech companies heralding the potential policy benefits of allowing unlicensed use across the entire band. The broadcasters’ take no particular issue with amateur pundits weighing in on policy at least plausibly aligned with their organizations’ missions, he notes. However, “The problem is that there’s a considerable difference between acting like you know what you’re talking about and actually knowing what you’re talking about. And when it comes to evaluating the technical concerns about co-existence between unlicensed users and broadcast newsgathering, neither OTI nor the Center for American Spectrum Dilettantes has a clue.”
NAB’s consistent position regarding the need to treat mobile operations differently in this proceeding is informed by a detailed technical analysis demonstrating that unlicensed use across the 6 GHz band is likely to cause massive interference to broadcasters’ electronic news gathering operations, according to McFadden.
OTI suggests that broadcasters rely on bonded cellular technology for news gathering operations. But cellular networks often fail during critical times, notes the NAB.
The broadcast trade lobby urges the FCC to ignore views like OTI’s and various one-person special interest groups that filed “uninformed” Facebook letters. “NAB’s proposal to keep 80 MHz of the 6 GHz band off the table, temporarily, is a safety valve. No one has field tested RLAN systems against other 6 GHz uses and NAB has good, science-based reasons to believe that mobile uses are the most vulnerable,” writes McFadden.
“Everyone admits that there is some possibility that interference might result, but no one agrees on the probability that it will happen or the resulting harm. Until there is some actual experience with RLAN deployments at 6 GHz, it simply makes sense to proceed cautiously, before we step on a rake that will leave a permanent mark,” he explains.