Incompas Speakers Urge Quick FCC Action on 12 GHz for 5G
Speakers at the Incompas Policy Summit expressed hope Tuesday that the FCC will act soon to allow use of the 12 GHz band for 5G. Incompas has been a leading member of the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition, which seeks new rules for the band.
“The spectrum auctions that are lining up really aren’t there right now,” said Michael Essington, Dish Network senior manager-public policy. “We’ve got maybe 2.5 GHz this year, and then what?” he asked: “With 12 [GHz] we have an opportunity. I hope it becomes a big opportunity and priority” of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. The spectrum has already been auctioned “so we don’t have to worry about that delay of time to market,” he said. “Really, all it needs is new rules that can allow us all to share,” he said.
“Nothing is easy in D.C., but as things go this could be a layup for the commission,” Essington said. “The record is made” at the FCC, he said: “The engineering analysis is in. The facts are in. As soon as the commission were to decide, we believe they can come out with new rules for higher-powered two-way service within the band.” Dish hopes to use the band for mobile and fixed connectivity as it builds a 5G network, he said. It could also help with tower backhaul where fiber is difficult to deploy, he said.
The huge amount of money becoming available means rural America needs a new spectrum band, said Rural Wireless Association General Counsel Carri Bennet. “That’s where a lot of this stuff can be deployed,” she said. “You can get fiber out there, but you’ve got to get wireless across the areas to get the coverage that we need and … this is a great piece of spectrum to do that,” she said. More spectrum is needed for precision agriculture, she said. “We have a lot of need to push edge computing out to the farms to do exchange of data and we need more capacity,” she said: “It’s one thing to fund fiber broadband to a home on a farm. It’s another thing to carry it across the farm.”
Making the band available also means rural carriers won’t have to compete in another auction for spectrum often sold through what Bennet sees as too-large partial economic areas. “We don’t like PEAs in rural America because rural carriers don’t end up with spectrum and if rural carriers don’t end up with it, it doesn’t get deployed,” she said.
The current rules allow a 12 GHz licensee to transmit using the band and “with this spectrum that is so huge in megahertz capacity, it’s pretty much like putting a fiber-optic cable right through the air,” said Tim Meyer, Go Long Wireless Group managing partner. The problem is that the rules don’t allow for two-way transmission, he said. “I can do a firehouse going down, but I’ve got to use a garden hose coming back,” he said.
Digital Progress Institute President Joel Thayer joked that at one point, opening the C band also looked easy. A 12 GHz order is “clearly within the realm of possibility,” he said. The FCC’s approach should be “we’ll let the engineering speak for itself,” he said. Commissioner Brendan Carr remains “open-minded” about the band, he said at the conference.
Incompas President Chip Pickering urged action on the band in a recent opinion piece in RCR Wireless. As the FCC “looks to advance its agenda in 2022, it must act upon its clear authority and responsibility to modernize its rules, opening up key mid-band spectrum like that in the 12 GHz band for two-way terrestrial use and 5G mobile services,” Pickering said: “The FCC is uniquely positioned” to reallocate the band “in a way that is legally defensible and technically sound.”