TR Daily Draft 6 GHz Band Item Defends AFC Proposal
Thursday, April 2, 2020

Draft 6 GHz Band Item Defends AFC Proposal

In the draft 6 gigahertz band item circulated for consideration at the FCC’s April 23 meeting, the agency would defend a plan to require the use of an automated frequency coordination (AFC) for standard-power unlicensed devices but not for indoor low-power devices, and it would say that its proposed power limits would ensure that incumbent operations don’t experience interference.

Overall, the report and order in ET docket 18-295 and GN docket 17-83 would allow unlicensed use of the entire 1,200 megahertz of the 5.925.-7.125 GHz band.

Draft items for consideration at the April 23 meeting were released today along with the six-item tentative agenda. The meeting is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m.

“Based on the record before us, we adopt the proposal set forth in the Notice to permit standard power unlicensed operations in the U-NII-5 and U-NII-7 bands to operate outdoors or indoors with similar power levels as permitted for unlicensed portions of the 5 GHz band through use of an AFC system to protect incumbent fixed microwave operations from harmful interference,” according to the draft item. “Specifically, we authorize standard-power access points to operate in these bands at power levels up to 36 dBm EIRP (PSD of 23 dBm/MHz EIRP), and client devices to operate at up to 30 dBm EIRP (PSD of 17 dBm/MHz EIRP). The rules we adopt for these unlicensed device operations will protect incumbent fixed microwave, radio astronomy, and fixed-satellite operations, add much needed capacity to meet the rapidly increasing demands of the wireless industry, and promote innovation and investment in new wireless unlicensed technologies. To protect incumbent fixed microwave operations from harmful interference, unlicensed access to these bands is only permitted on frequencies and locations determined by an AFC system based on the exclusion zones that it establishes. We also will protect certain radio astronomy observatories through the AFC system. Finally, in affirming the Commission’s tentative conclusion that the AFC system is not necessary to protect incumbent fixed satellite service operations, we also adopt a restriction on unlicensed standard-power access point to prevent them from pointing toward the space station receivers.”

The draft item also said the FCC would “limit the low-power indoor access points to lower power levels than the standard-power access points that operate under the control of an AFC. Consistent with the Commission’s approach for the existing U-NII bands, we specify both a maximum power spectral density and an absolute maximum transmit power, both in terms of EIRP. Specifically, we will allow a maximum radiated power spectral density of 5 dBm per 1 megahertz and an absolute maximum radiated channel power of 30 dBm for the maximum permitted 320-megahertz channel (or 27 dBm for a 160-megahertz channel). In addition, to ensure that client devices remain in close proximity to the indoor access points, we are limiting their PSD and maximum transmit power to 6 dB below the power permitted for the access points. In adopting these power levels in our rules, we strike a balance between ensuring that indoor unlicensed devices have adequate power to be useful to the public while also protecting the licensed services in the 6 GHz band from harmful interference. In accordance with the record developed in this proceeding, we find that this power level meets these twin goals.”

The low-power indoor access points would operate over the U-NII 5-8 bands.

“The rules we adopt today are designed to optimize unlicensed access to the 6 GHz band while also protecting incumbent services so that they continue to thrive in the band,” the item says. “In our analysis below, we account for the concerns raised by parties representing the various incumbent services that operate in the 6 GHz band, weigh the various technical studies presented by proponents of unlicensed operations as well as representatives of incumbent services, and address how the rules we are adopting will enable unlicensed operations to operate in the 6 GHz band and protect the various incumbent services that operate in the band.”

The item also would “conclude that the emission mask suggested by RKF Engineering, with certain modifications, will protect incumbent microwave links and other services operating in the adjacent channel to unlicensed devices within the U-NII-5 through U-NII-8 bands. Accordingly, we are requiring emissions from standard power access points and low power indoor devices within the U-NII-5 through U-NII-8 bands to comply with the transmit emission mask proposed in the Notice. Specifically, we are requiring 20 dB suppression of power spectral density at one megahertz outside of an unlicensed device’s channel edge, 28 dB suppression of power spectral density at one channel bandwidth from an unlicensed device’s channel center, and 40 dB suppression of power spectral density at one and one-half times the channel bandwidth away from an unlicensed device’s channel center. At frequencies between one megahertz outside an unlicensed device’s channel edge and one channel bandwidth from the center of the channel, the limits must be linearly interpolated between 20 dB and 28 dB suppression, and at frequencies between one and one and one-half time an unlicensed device’s channel bandwidth from the center of the channel, the limits must be linearly interpolated between 28 dB and 40 dB suppression.”

“We are adopting the -27 dBm/MHz limit proposed in the Notice for emissions from all 6 GHz unlicensed devices at frequencies below the bottom of the U-NII-5 band (5.925 GHz) and above the upper edge of the U-NII-8 band (7.125 GHz), but will not require it between the sub-bands, i.e. between the U-NII-5 and U-NII-6, the U-NII-6 and U-NII-7, and the U-NII-7 and U-NII-8 bands,” according to the item. “We believe that a limit of -27 dBm/MHz is necessary to protect services outside the U-NII-5 and U-NII-8 bands, including the Intelligent Transportation Service below the U-NII-5 band and federal government operations above the U-NII-8 band. We are not requiring devices to meet this emission limit between the sub-bands as suggested by Sony because we are seeking to maximize spectrum use and it would stifle innovation by precluding the use of wide bandwidth channels (up to 320 megahertz) that straddle sub-bands.”

“We decline the request by CTIA, Ericsson, and other wireless service providers that, instead of opening the entire 6 GHz band for new unlicensed operations as proposed in the Notice, we should issue a further notice to propose repurposing significant portions of the 6 GHz band for exclusive, flexible use licenses and relocating affected incumbent services to other frequency bands,” the draft item says. “Such an approach would undermine our goal of creating significant new opportunities for unlicensed operations across the 6 GHz band, and would run contrary to our approach in ensuring that existing incumbent services can continue to thrive in the 6 GHz band.”

The draft order would require stand-power access points to have an internal geo-location capability. It also would support “formation of an industry-led multi-stakeholder group to study technical and operational issues in the 6 GHz band.” The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology would serve as a liaison to this group. OET also would be charged with designate AFC operators and oversee their operations.

In response to concerns about the accuracy of any AFC systems, the item says the Commission intends “to work with industry stakeholder groups as necessary to develop appropriate procedures for thoroughly testing AFC systems prior to use. We will not grant final approval for an AFC system operator to begin providing service until after the operator satisfactorily demonstrates that standard-power access points can operate under the control of its system without causing harmful interference to fixed wireless services.”

In a further notice of proposed rulemaking, the FCC would “comment on two options for further expanding unlicensed operations without the use of an AFC. First, we propose to authorize operations that are not limited to indoor use—and, thus, must be very low power to protect incumbents. Second, we seek comment on increasing the power spectral density EIRP for low-power indoor operations from 5 dBm/MHz up to 8 dBm/MHz.”

Meanwhile, parties continued to weigh in on the draft 6 GHz band item.

"The nation is relying on Wi-Fi more than ever to stay connected as work, school, and healthcare move online. I called for the FCC to make available 1200 megahertz of new spectrum to support the growth of Wi-Fi in the next decade, and I am pleased that the draft Order will do that. We need it to stay competitive in 5G and grow the possibilities of the wireless ecosystem," Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement released last night.

Several additional entities also endorsed the item, including the Wireless Broadband Alliance, the Information Technology Industry Council, Cisco Systems, Inc., Boingo Wireless, Inc., Federated Wireless, Inc., and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Also on the tentative agenda is a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and order in GN docket 20-32 that would propose a $9 billion 5G Fund for Rural America to replace the $4.5 billion Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II), which would have been used to support 4G LTE deployment to unserved rural areas, as Chairman Ajit Pai announced in early December he would do (TR Daily, Dec. 4, 2019).

The 5G Fund support would be distributed in two phases through multi-round reverse auctions. Funding would be aimed at rural areas “where there is insufficient financial incentive for mobile wireless carriers to invest in 5G-capable networks,” according to the draft item.

“Phase I of the 5G Fund would target at least $8 billion of support to rural areas of our country that would be unlikely to see timely deployment of voice and 5G broadband service absent high-cost support or as part of T-Mobile’s transaction-related commitments. To balance our policy goal of efficiently redirecting high-cost support to the areas where it is most needed with our obligation to ensure that we have an accurate understanding of the extent of nationwide mobile wireless broadband deployment, we seek comment on two options for identifying areas that would be eligible for 5G Fund support,” the draft item says.

The first option would use current data to immediately define areas as “particularly rural” and therefore eligible for Phase I support. “In recognition of the particular challenges of ensuring that voice and 5G broadband service are deployed to areas that lack any mobile broadband service, we would prioritize areas that have historically lacked 4G LTE, or even 3G, service. This would ensure that we could move quickly to target universal service support to those areas least likely to receive service without support, such as those with sparse populations, rugged terrain, or other factors. Under this approach, we anticipate commencing the 5G Fund Phase I auction in 2021,” the draft item says.

The second option would “delay the 5G Fund Phase I auction until after we collect and process improved mobile broadband coverage data through the Commission’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection. Collecting these data would allow us to identify with greater precision those areas of the country that remain unserved by 4G LTE service. While this option would likely result in a less expansive and a more targeted list of eligible areas and help ensure prioritization of areas that currently lack service, it would potentially delay the start of the Phase I auction and deployment of 5G-capable networks in those areas,” the draft item explains. It suggests this would delay the Phase I auction until 2023 or later.

“Phase II of the 5G Fund would follow the completion of Phase I and would target universal service support to bring wireless connectivity to harder to serve and higher cost areas, such as farms and ranches, and make at least $1 billion available specifically aimed at deployments that would facilitate precision agriculture. By proposing to rely on a two-phase process, as the Commission did with the Connect America Fund and the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, we can commence a Phase I auction while also ensuring that Phase II would cover harder-to-serve areas so that such areas are not left behind. Moreover, our proposal to implement this two-phased approach would allow us to build upon future recommendations from the Commission’s Precision Agriculture Task Force to more accurately target Phase II support towards services that will meet the growing needs of America’s farms and ranches,” it says.

In addition to repurposing the $4.53 billion budgeted for the MF-II program, “which intended to redistribute the amount of legacy support mobile carriers would receive over the next decade, outside of Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” the draft order says there is also “a recognition that significant additional financial resources will be needed to accomplish an undertaking of this kind.”

It adds, “Although the current level of legacy support of approximately $382 million per year has decreased from when the Mobility Fund Phase II budget was adopted, we nonetheless propose to repurpose the entire $4.53 billion Mobility Fund Phase II budget, and seek comment regarding how much additional funding may be needed to best achieve the Commission’s policy objectives.” An FCC staff report released in December found that the 4G LTE coverage maps submitted by Verizon Communications, Inc., United States Cellular Corp., and T-Mobile US, Inc., as part of the effort to determine which areas should be eligible for support in the agency’s MF-II auction, overstated their coverage and thus were not accurate. The staff recommended that the Commission terminate the MF-II challenge process. On the same day the report was released, Chairman Pai announced his plan for the 5G Fund (TR Daily, Dec. 4, 2019).

According to a fact sheet released with the draft item, the NPRM would also “[s]eek comment on the minimum speeds networks supported by the 5G Fund must provide, such as 35/3 [megabits per second] or 50/5 Mbps” and “[p]ropose a framework for transitioning from legacy high-cost support to 5G Fund support.”

The accompanying draft order would “[d]irect the Wireline Competition Bureau and the Office of Economics and Analytics to seek comment on and develop an adjustment factor to ensure sufficient auction support in areas with rugged terrain, sparse populations, or other factors affecting deployment costs.”

The FCC also plans to consider a report and order and further notice in IB docket 18-313 updating its orbital debris rules for the first time since they were adopted 2004.

A fact sheet noted that the order would “[r]evise existing application disclosure rules to incorporate numeric thresholds” for matters such as (1) “risk of collision with large objects”; (2) “risk of collision with small objects that would disable the satellite”; (3) “probability of successful post-mission disposal”; and (4) “casualty risk associated with those satellites that will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere[.]”

The item also would (1) “[a]dopt a requirement that all satellites must be equipped with maneuverability sufficient to perform collision avoidance maneuvers during any period when the satellite is in an orbit that is above the International Space Station (approximately 400 kilometers altitude)”; (2) “[u]pdate disclosure requirements and adopt new disclosure requirements related to limiting collision risk, protecting inhabitable spacecraft, maneuverability, use of deployment devices, release of persistent liquids, and proximity operations”; (3) “[a]dopt disclosure requirements regarding satellite trackability, satellite identification, and how operators plan to share information related to space situational awareness, such as ephemeris data”; (4) “[c]odify informational requirements for geostationary-orbit satellite license extensions and limit the duration of such extensions to five years maximum per extension”; (5) “[c]larify existing high-level Commission requirements regarding maintaining control of authorized stations, including for satellite command communications”; (6) “[c]larify liability issues by adopting a requirement that licensees indemnify the United States for costs associated with any claims brought against the United States under international outer space treaties”; and (7) “[c]larify that the revised rules, with some exceptions, apply to applicants under parts 5, 25, and 97 of the Commission’s rules, including applicants for U.S. market access under part 25.”

The further notice would “[p]ropose a bond requirement for geostationary and non-geostationary orbit space stations associated with successful post-mission disposal,” the fact sheet added.

In comments filed on behalf of the Commerce Department, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration asked the FCC last year to defer action in the orbital debris proceeding “until completion of the agency actions mandated by the President’s Space Policy Directives” (TR Daily, April 8, 2019).

The draft item says that “[t]he Commerce Department provided informative comments describing in detail many of the Commerce Department and interagency initiatives currently underway as a result of the Space Policy Directives. At this time, we are pleased to highlight the recent completion of the revisions to the ODMSP [Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices], and look forward to further work with the Commerce Department and other agencies on an evolving ‘whole of government’ approach to space activities.”

The Commission also plans to consider an order and declaratory ruling in IBFS file no. SAT-PDR-20161115-00120 granting Viasat, Inc.’s request for U.S. market access to construct a non-geostationary satellite orbit fixed-satellite service constellation that includes 20 satellites.

Also on the tentative agenda is an NPRM in MB docket 11-43 that would propose a four-year phase-in of video description programming requirements in the 61st through 100th top designated market areas (DMAs) for commercial broadcast television stations that are affiliates of the top four commercial broadcast television networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC). The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) authorizes the FCC to expand the video description requirement by 10 markets a year, the draft NPRM notes.

The draft NPRM also proposes to change the term “video description” in the FCC’s part 79 rules to “audio description” (the description is provided by inserting audio narrated description of the key visual elements of programming during pauses in dialog with the aim of making programming more accessible to blind and visually impaired individuals). The CVAA uses the term “video description,” but the draft NPRM notes that “there appears to be wide support among consumer organizations and industry for the proposed change.”

In a report to Congress last year mandated by CVAA the FCC’s Media Bureau noted that consumers would like the video-description requirement to be expanded beyond the top-60 DMAs (TR Daily, Oct. 9, 2019).

According to a fact sheet released with the draft NPRM, the item would “[t]entatively conclude that the costs of implementing the video description regulations in these markets are reasonable” and would “[p]ropose that the Commission should determine in 2023 whether to continue expanding to an additional 10 DMAs per year, with any further expansion to be undertaken only following a future determination of the reasonableness of the associated costs.” It would also “[s]eek comment on whether we should account for the current coronavirus pandemic in evaluating the reasonableness of costs of expanding video description requirements to markets outside of the top 60, and in making a determination regarding the compliance deadline, and, if so, how.”

The Commission also plans to consider a report and order in MB dockets 19-193 and 17-105 updating its LPFM technical rules. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]; Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

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