The chorus of the Marseillaise, the French national anthem begins with:
Which translate to
Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons !
To arms, citizens,
Form your battalions,
Let's march, let's march!
(While I lived in Paris, I often walked by Eugène Delacroix’s masterpiece Liberty Leading the People [La Liberté guidant le peuple] while visiting the Louvre. [Oddly, the painting also made a rare overseas trip to Tokyo in 1999 when I was living there and was the hit of the town during its visit.] The words of the Marseillaise and the picture describe events and the initial idealism of the French Revolution. But while the”armes”/“arms” in the above lyrics means weapons, what is needed in the context of this post is the use of human arms to write to FCC and advocate constructive action.)
The commentators of Fox News repeatedly comment on the “war on coal” and the “war on religion”. Well, the “war on millimeter (mmW) wave technology” at FCC is just as real and easier to document, although it is no doubt unintentional. There are 3 proceedings at FCC that document FCC’s present disinterest/apathy towards commercial use of cutting edge microwave technology, even as our national competitors advance in this area.
While not exactly an issue comparable to the causes of the French Revolution, the current situation of US regulation >95 GHz needs the urgent attention of “netoyens”, especially researchers and firms dealing with millimeter wave technology. While the FCC Rules have spectrum allocations up to 275 GHz, the lack of “service rules” beyond 95 GHz (with the minor exception of certain amateur radio and ISM bands) makes regular commercial licensed or unlicensed mmW use impossible. This in turn greatly complicates capital formation for such technology because VCs can easily find other technology to invest in that does not involve making a prominent FCBA member a member of your family for several years and paying his children’s college tuition while at the same time the entrepreneur has no access to market and bleeds red ink.
Sadly, with the exception of the IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee (the techies behind Wi-Fi standards), Boeing, and the more obscure (at least in FCC circles) Battelle Memorial Institute and the rather obscure Radio Physics Solutions, Inc., no commercial interests have filed comments with FCC on 3 key issues blocking capital formation for technology above 95 GHz and by extension hindering US competitiveness in advanced radio technology.
The 3 dockets involved are:
- Docket 10-236 which as previously reported here was supposed to encourage experimentation had the apparently unintended effect of complicating millimeter waver research by forbidding, for the first time and without an explanation, all experimental licenses in bands with only passive allocations independent of whether there was any impact. Many mmW bands have only passive allocations and it is difficult a and expensive to avoid them in initial experiments with new technology and it is not important if there is no passive use near the experiment than could get interference. Since the text of the Report and Order contradicts itself on this issue, the simplest explanation is that a sentence was put in the wrong section. Your blogger filed a timely reconsideration petition when he noticed this 2 days before the deadline and that had been supported by Battelle and Boeing and has been opposed by none. But FCC doesn’t necessarily react in a timely way, specially when incentive auctions are very distracting and staffing is low, unless there are multiple expressions of concerns, preferably from corporate America.
- Docket 13-259 deals with the IEEE-USA petition seeking timely treatment of new technology proposals for this green field spectrum >95 GHz under the terms of 47 USC 157, although any clear statement from FCC on how to get timely decisions on such spectrum would be useful.
- Docket 13-84 has proposed updating the Commission’s RF safety rules. The rules currently only have numeric limits up to 100 GHz - the upper limit of the standard they were based on when they were last updated almost 2 decade ago - but the new proposals are silent on numeric limits above 100 GHz even though the standard that is now the base of the regulations now goes to 300 GHz! This lack of a specific safety standard above 100 GHz adds even more to the regulatory uncertainty of those interested in mmW technology. With today’s mmW technology, the specific numeric standard doesn’t really matter much because exposures will be low. But this proposal to leave ambiguity for mmW systems can be very damaging. Battelle has proposed one way to deal with a specific standard. Others interested in mmW technology should either support it or propose an alternative.
So netoyens, Aux armes! The time has come to take your arms (and the attached hands) and write to FCC urging timely action on these three dockets to level the playing field for mmW technology and help US competitiveness.
As a public service, Marcus Spectrum Solutions LLC will draft comments in these 3 dockets for any US manufacturer of mmW equipment dealing with the issues above at no charge to reflect whatever your viewpoints are.
(Note MSS is not licensed to practice law so this offer does not involve the practice of law. Let’s discuss what your viewpoints are and we will draft a document for review by your legal staff.)
Japanese 120 GHz system used at 2008 Beijing Olympics
German 237 GHz System exceeding 100 Gbits/s
( An experiment probably not permitted under the terms of the recently revised §5.85(a))
Chrysler Superbowl Ad on “American Pride” - MSS believes that advanced wireless technology is just as American as automobile production in Detroit. US can compete if FCC doesn’t slow innovation!
Your blogger’s comments on Docket 13-259, the IEEE-USA petition to FCC asking that technology greater than 95 GHz be declared “new technology” subject to timely consideration under Section 7 of the Communications Act are now posted on the FCC site. As of this writing, also posted as early filings are comments from IEEE 802 and from David Britz, a former research in the area for AT&T.
If you are interested in facilitating the introduction of commercial technology above 95 GHz, presently forbidden by law in the US and facing multiyear case-by-case deliberations, you may wish to consider telling FCC whether you agree with the points made in the above comments. Feel free to disagree on issues. Heck, feel free to say that use of spectrum above 95 GHz is not even in the “public interest” -- if that is what you believe.
Note to those interested in passive uses such as radio astronomy and remote sensing: bands for such uses are already allocated and protected and are not under consideration here for nonpassive use. The issue here is actual access to bands that already have fixed and mobile allocations but have no FCC service rules.
In a Halloween present to your blogger, FCC released the above PN asking for comment on the previously discussed IEEE-USA petition to expedite deliberations on technology >95 GHz in accordance with the terms of Section 7 of the Communications Act.
In an apparent clerical error they omitted either an RM number or a Docket number creating an ambiguity on how to actually file comments. A knowledgeable source says this happens sometimes and is normally corrected in a day or 2.
We look forward to seeing your comments.
vox populi, vox dei
FCC issued an erratum on November 1 and now this issue is docketed as ET Doc. 13-259.
By my calculation, comments are due December 2, 2013.
For those who do not do this often, the link for uploading a comment into this docket is at
Convert your comments to .pdf format before uploading to FCC
Remember to enter 13-259 in the first entry block labeled
“Proceeding Number: ”
If you need any help, place contact your blogger
The article start off with
At the upper end of the spectrum ITU gives 3000 GHz or 3 THz as the upper limit of its jurisdiction. This is the region of infrared which is normally described by wave-length not the equivalent frequency, so for reference 3 THz is equivalent to 100 μm. While ITU gives a numeric limit for the upper limit of radio spectrum, there is some disagreement in the infrared/optics community of the lower limit of infrared technology with various sources giving numbers in the range of 1–3 THz.
For many purposes the difference between RF and infrared is the type of technology used and there is a growing convergence as many recognize that there is a transition zone where technology from both disciplines can be used together. Thus RF technology has be classically characterized by components such as mixers and antennas and infrared technology by lenses and diffraction gratings and new innovative systems use components from both traditions.
The full text of the article is available to SpectrumTalk readers here.
On Mach 11, 2013 the FCC’s Technology Advisory Council held its first meeting of the year. In stark contrast to previous FCC chairmen, Chairman Genachowski opened the meeting and seemed to enjoy being with this group. (I recall when the Disney CTO resigned from TAC a decade or so ago because of his perception that there was no interest in its advice from the 8th Floor and his observation that in a parallel group at SEC that agency’s chairman regularly met with the advisory committee.)
Part of the deliberations dealt with “Spectrum Frontiers” and the slide projected for that discussion is shown at the top of this post. It correctly says that future systems may move into the millimeter wave (mmW) band (frequencies above 60 GHz) and that technical innovations may make use of such higher frequencies more practical.
If you were to ask a prominent communications attorney to do due diligence on a business plan involving technology above 95 GHz I suspect he would report back to potential investors that there would be a 3-4 year delay for new service rules based on recent FCC performance in Title III regulation - think UWB, BPL, AWS-3, TVWhitespace, LightSquared, etc. Would anyone in their right mind invest in technology subject to such regulatory uncertainty?
FCC Chairman Charles Ferris (1977-81)
In order to get the investment needed for practical technology in these bands, FCC must give assurance to developers and investors that any deliberations will be both transparent and timely. Comm. Pai has rediscovered the long lost Section 7 of the Communications Act. (It wasn’t really lost, just ignored by FCC for almost 30 years on a bipartisan basis.) Rather than have the TAC deliberate on how this now idle spectrum might be used - perhaps with Soviet-style planning, let’s have faith in the marketplace and encourage capital formation for technology development >95 GHz by giving assurances of timely consideration of any new service rules.
Why doesn’t FCC just declare that technology >95 GHz is presumed to be “new technologies and services to the public” and thus subject to the terms of Section 7. As I read Section 7(a) it would apply to both FCC and NTIA - important since all bands >95 GHz are shared and thus subject to NTIA coordination. (Section 7(b) clearly only applies to FCC.)
Frequencies Above 95 GHz: Why Not Declare that Section 7 Presumably Applies in Order to Stimulate US Innovation and Economic Growth?
135 GHz antenna developed by Singapore
government lab and announced last week
(The fact that this antenna looks so unusual is an
indication that technology at this band is very
different and conventional regulatory thinking
may be inappropriate.)
Almost on cue from my 8/25/22 post on moving the upper limit of FCC radio service rules above 95 GHz, RF Globalnet published on 8/28/12 a post entitled “A*STAR's IME Develops Smallest Antenna That Can Increase WiFi Speed By 200 Times”. A*STAR is the Singapore Agency for Science, Technology and Research, the “lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation-driven Singapore” - somewhat of a combination of the US’ NSF and national laboratories (e.g. Argonne National Lab) in a state capitalism industry model. (Original A*STAR press release)
The RF Globalnet article reported (in Singapore/Commonwealth spelling):
Researchers from A*STAR’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME) have developed the first compact high performance silicon-based cavity-backed slot (CBS) antenna that operates at 135 GHz. The antenna demonstrated 30 times stronger signal transmission over on-chip antennas at 135 GHz. At just 1.6mm x 1.2mm, approximately the size of a sesame seed, it is the smallest silicon-based CBS antenna reported to date for ready integration with active circuits. IME’s innovation will help realise a wireless communication system with very small form factor and almost two-thirds cheaper than a conventional CBS antenna. The antenna, in combination with other millimetre-wave building blocks, can support wireless speed of 20 Gbps – more than 200 times faster than present day Wi-Fi, to allow ultra fast point-to-point access to rich media content, relevant to online learning and entertainment.
So the Japanese have a product prototype at 120 GHz that they used at the Olympics 4 years ago and a Singapore government lab is developing 135 GHz commercial technology. Where do US firms stand? There is some interest among US firms in this area. The US-based IWPC MoGig group includes several US entities such as AT&T and Northrop Grumman. But a rational “due diligence” assessment of regulatory risk by anyone wanting to invest in R&D in these bands would lead to great regulatory uncertainties at present:
- Only experiment licenses are possible with no guarantee of renewal or expectation of protection
- Unlicensed use is impossible
- The legality of equipment sales is questionable
- The time for FCC to respond to a waiver request or a petition for rulemaking to permit a specific product to be sold and used in these bands is in the multiyear range and the need for NTIA coordination (all these bands are G/NG shared) is complicated since there is no public information on federal government uses or requirements in these bands other than radio astronomy and passive sensing
Recall the words of Comm. Pai in his maiden speech at CMU in July:
I’ve met with those in the private sector who decide whether to make investments and to create jobs and have asked what’s holding them back. The principal answer that I have received has been remarkably consistent, and it can be summed up in two words: “regulatory uncertainty.”
Some of the factors that contribute to this uncertainty fall outside of the FCC’s jurisdiction, such as taxes, health care, and financial regulation. But concerns are expressed regarding the FCC in two general ways. The first involves inaction, or delayed action, by the Commission. At first blush, it may seem odd for those in the private sector to be complaining that its regulator is moving too slowly. Entrepreneurs are usually happy to be left alone, free to innovate without government intervention.
But the communications industry often doesn’t fit that stereotype given the FCC’s pervasive role. If a company wants to market a new mobile device, it needs the FCC’s approval. If a company wants to purchase another firm’s spectrum licenses, it needs the FCC’s approval. If a company wants to provide a new wireless service, it needs the FCC’s approval. And if a company finds that there isn’t any spectrum available and proposes the reallocation of inefficiently used spectrum, it needs the FCC’s approval.
Comm. Pai has the same understanding of Section 7 that I have:
“Looking at that provision, the message from Congress is clear: The Commission should make the deployment of new technologies and new services a priority, resolving any concerns about them within a year.”
It is interesting to read Section 7(a) (47 USC 157(a)) in the light of the FCC/NTIA Section 301/305 dichotomy and in view of the fact that any action in these shared bands de facto requires NTIA concurrence. Without the benefit of any formal legal education, let me state that the policy provisions of Section 7(a) applies to both FCC and NTIA. Further, the requirement that
Any person or party (other than the Commission) who opposes a new technology or service proposed to be permitted under this chapter shall have the burden to demonstrate that such proposal is inconsistent with the public interest.
would indicate that NTIA (and IRAC) is a “person or party other than the Commission” and thus has “burden to demonstrate that such proposal is inconsistent with the public interest”.
But here is a humble suggestion:
Why don’t FCC and NTIA jointly declare that any proposed private sector use of frequencies greater than 95 GHz will be presumptively treated as a “new technology or service” and that FCC and NTIA will both strive to meet the 1 year deadline of section 7(b) and the burden tests of Section 7(a)? Further, why doesn’t FCC use the same “shot clock” for tracking such actions as it already uses for corporate mergers where there is no statutory deadline?
Benefits? Stimulating innovation and economic growth and bringing FCC into compliance with this neglected section of the Act.
In the August 2012 issue of IEEE Wireless Communications is the above article by your blogger. The article starts
International spectrum allocations of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) now go to an upper limit of 275 GHz. The upper limit of actual production commercial equipment appears to be in the 80 GHz range in the millimeterwaves or “mmW” region (30-300 GHz). While these upper frequencies have been often associated with fixed and satellite uses, the emergence of IEEE 802.11ad/WiGig mobile standards at 60 GHz and interest in broadband mobile applications above 100 GHz shows that many different uses may now be possible.
The initiation last year of the new IEEE Transactions on Terahertz Science and Technology shows that basic technology is moving on somewhat independent of lagging spectrum regulation. In addition, a technical highlight of the 2008 Beijing Olympics - ignored by the general press - was the use of 120 GHz point-to-point terrestrial links for high definition video distribution from venues to a central site and showed the potential for commercial spectrum use in presently virgin upper spectrum.
120 GHz Japanese system used at Beijing Olympics
Isn’t it time FCC start removing at >95 GHz such barriers to innovation and the necessary capital formation for it?
There are some valid issues of sharing these bands with existing passive allocations for radio astronomy and remote sensing as well as active federal government systems, but these make it more important that FCC give guidance to industry on how to commercialize these bands while protecting the other allocations. The nature of propagation at these bands as well as the ease at which narrow beam antennas can be used means that the concepts of spectrum regulation used at lower bands are not necessarily applicable and sharing is much more feasible.
On December 20, 2011 the FCC released the NPRM in Docket 11-202 dealing with adopting rules to permit non-Federal Government use of the 78-81 GHz band for the first time. (My thanks to Mitch Lazarus at FHH CommLawBlog who made a post on this action before I noticed it.)
For reference, the amount of spectrum involved here is 3 GHz of bandwidth, or 6 times what is being sought for new mobile use in the national Broadband Plan. So if this band ends up only being used for the requested use and some passive scientific uses, that is a lot of spectrum “off the table”.
Real investors in the real world hesitate to invest in products that need non routine FCC approvals. Thus there is 120 GHz technology developed in Japan that was used in the Beijing Olympics and has no counterpart in the US, even though the US has been the leader in millimeter wave technologies:
Uncertainties in FCC spectrum policies discourage this type of R&D investment and affect US technological competitiveness.
This NPRM was stimulated by the development by Trex Enterprises Corporation of an “foreign object debris”/“FOD” detection system to meet an urgent FAA requirement for airports. The “foreign” in FOD does not mean non-US, but rather any debris on a runway that could cause damage to aircraft such as nuts and bolts and tools. The NPRM would permit use of the Trex system and similar systems.
The key issues in the NPRM are stated in para. 3 as:
“(W)e seek comment on a proposal by Trex to amend Part 90 of our rules to permit non-Federal radiolocation operations, including Trex’s FOD radar detection technology, in the 78-81 GHz band and to impose a specific assignment limitation to protect radio astronomy service operations in this band from harmful interference. We also seek comment on whether we should instead amend Part 15 to open the band to non-Federal radiolocation operations (including FOD detection devices) on an unlicensed basis. And we seek comment on whether we should amend Part 90 to permit use of the 78-81 GHz band by FOD detection devices at airports on a licensed basis, while permitting other uses on an unlicensed basis pursuant to Part 15 of our Rules.”
Kitt Peak National Observatory AZ
The radio astronomy community and the passive sensing community that both have allocations in and near their bands did a major study of their spectrum management issues in 2010 that are published in a report front eh national Research Council entitled Spectrum Management for Science in the 21st Century. Pages 186-187 of this report explore the feasibility of “cooperative spectrum sharing” as a way to share spectrum between active users and the scientific passive users in a “win/win” way.
The glib talk in the NPRM of possibly using this 3 GHz wide band only for ground focused FOD detectors at a few hundred airports and ruling out any other transmitters in this band to protect a handful of radio astronomy locations indicates perhaps a perfection of classic spectrum management philosophy, but is out of touch with modern thinking in spectrum management where one tries to use dynamic spectrum access techniques to get the most out of every Hz for both its contribution to GDP and for it scientific potential. Classic spectrum management was a “zero sum game” for participants. At these upper frequencies in virgin bands, we can do much better.
Your blogger would like to work with interested parties to prepare comments in the next month that use this band for multiple uses and encourage the capital formation needed for technical innovation. If interested, contact me here.
In just the last month, we have had two analysts give bold forecasts for the
60 GHz, 70/80 GHz and even 90 GHz millimeter-wave markets. Are these
predictions justified, or are they just (backhaul) pipe dreams?
Analyst's forecast $500+ million millimeter-wave market
In early November, Visant Strategies forecast that revenue from 60 GHz and
70/80 GHz PTP radios will reach over $500 million in 2016, with growth in
the 70/80 GHz space driven by mobile backhaul. Visant says that HSPA+,
WiMAX and LTE base stations and aggregation points will be requiring Gbps
speeds in dense urban areas, growing the mm-wave market five-fold over the
next six years. 60 GHz radio shipments will also grow at the same rate, but
driven by private enterprise and government networks, particularly public
safety wireless networks.
Just a week later, Infonetics Research released a more bullish prediction -
70/80 GHz and 90 GHz PTP equipment will grow to over $450 million by 2014.
Similarly, Infonetics also sees growth from mobile backhaul applications, as
4G network deployments drive demand for higher data capacities in higher
cell density metro areas. Interestingly, Infonetics also sees a role for 90
GHz "W-band" equipment, which is surprising since this is a severely
restricted and difficult to use band.
Is a half-billion dollar market realistic?
Definitely! But a number of factors need to happen for the current mm-wave
comms market of less than $50 million to grow ten-fold within 5 years - a) a
second anchor tenant after Clearwire needs to emerge and adopt this
technology, b) equipment vendors will need to embrace the ETSI / CEPT rules
and bandplans, and c) ongoing product innovation will be needed to ensure
millimeter-wave equipment offers compelling value beyond just high data
With the microwave PTP backhaul market at over $5 billion, and just about
all top microwave vendors announcing partnerships or interest in
millimeter-wave backhaul products, it is clear that with the right
opportunities and drivers, a future $500 million market is quite feasible.
Thus it was gratifying to see public data on 70/80 GHz licenses, courtesy of Comsearch, Inc. one of the database managers, that when analyzed shows the above plot of licenses vs. date. Basically “Clearwire Spectrum Holdings II, LLC” submitted about 1000 registrations to Comsearch in February (at $75 each) for links apparently in support of their new WiMAX network.
This doubles the number of licenses essentially overnight!