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Our focus is the relationship between spectrum policy
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Fox News Rants on "War on Christmas" While FCC "War on Millimeter Waves" Continues


Today, in time for the holiday season, The Washington Post reports that Bill O’Reilly is back to his ranting on the “war on Christmas”. Something that is not obvious as holiday decorations are going up everywhere and holiday music is becoming ubiquitous.

But also today I got from a client an FCC rejection of a millimeter wave experimental application that had the attached explanation:

“You are advised that the Commission is unable to grant your application for the facilities requested. We have received an objection to your application from NSF. If you still wish to pursue this testing, you should exclude the passive band (X - Y) GHz on your application to further discuss your request prior to refilling.” (We are not giving the exact band here to protect the privacy of the applicant)”

This action is a natural consequence of the bizarre revision of § 5.85(a) in the Report and Order of Docket 10-236 on January 31, 2013 that apparently was a clerical error! A timely Petition for Reconsideration as filed by your blogger and received support from several parties, including Boeing - a real Fortune 500 corporation with a real lawyer representing them! Since then - NOTHING! Except of course, today’s rejection of the client’s application. (Your blogger was not involved in the filing, so this rejection is actually income generating, so thanks FCC in a way!)

The § 5.85(a) problem is only one part of the FCC’s 3 prong “war on millimeterwaves”. As described here previously, the other 2 prongs are:
  • The inaction on the 7/1/13 IEEE-USA petition seeking to to declare technology above 95 GHz to be presumptively “new technology” in the context of 47 USC 157 and therefore entitled to timely consideration with the burden of proof on those opposed to such new technology
  • The failure of the RF safety NPRM, Docket 13-84, to propose quantitative safety standards above 100 GHz even though it is based on an IEEE standard that goes to 300 GHz.

While one might argue that the NOI in Docket 14-177 is a major change in the “war on millimeter waves”, a careful reading shows that the authors tried very hard to limit the coverage to both 24-86 GHz only as well as to mobile only, although there is passing mention of cellular backhaul.

So while the “war on Christmas” exists only in the minds of a few people at Fox News, the “war on millimeter waves is quite real at FCC!

New Millimeter Wave Textbook Just in Time for 24+ GHz NOI

Rappaport mmW
Just as FCC opens the issue of mobile use in the millimeter (mmW) wave region with the NOI in Docket 14-177, indeed its first significant millimeter wave policy deliberation in more than a decade, my friend, Ted Rappaport, and 3 coauthors have published a text book on the technology involved. OK, it was actually published 8/30/14 and the NOI was released 10/17/14, but that is close enough!

In some ways this book is reminiscent of the pioneering 1976 publication of Robert Dixon’s Spread Spectrum Systems with Commercial Applications. At the time Dixon’s book was published there were published articles on most aspects of spread spectrum/CDMA technology, but they were scattered other a lot of different journals, often with different jargon, nomenclatures, and symbology in equations. While Dixon had few equations, he tied all the concepts together in a single approachable book. Similarly, but at a higher technical level, this book ties together its subject matter in a consistent way from a variety of sources, although in this case the authors are themselves major pioneers themselves in this technology.

The title’s, Millimeter Wave Wireless Communications, use of the term “wireless” needs a little clarification. It is used primarily in the context of its use in “CTIA-The Wireless Association” - to mean what we spectrum policy wonks call CMRS - commercial mobile radio systems. More specifically it deals with base station/mobile uplinks and downlinks in the mmW region - something that was thought inconceivable a decade ago. However, it also deals with unlicensed 60 GHz systems such as those permitted under §15.255. It does not deal with fixed services such as the 70, 80, and 90 GHz systems authorized under §101.1501+ and does not deal with other radio services such as satellite systems, except in brief parenthetical sections. But within its scope it is very thorough and unique in its comprehensive treatment of this rapidly evolving technology. I would urge the authors to expand the scope to include fixed systems in the almost certain next edition since much of the present material already applies to both mobile and fixed.

Since this is a spectrum policy blog, let us mentioned a final concern: the discussion of the evolution of US mmW regulations has some minor garbles. For example on p. 507 it states that in 1998 “USA became the first country in the world to authorize low power unlicensed 60 GHz operations”, while 2 pages later it says “In 1995, the FCC allocated the 57-64 GHz frequency band for unlicensed communications” - which is the correct date although the initial band was 59-64 GHz. Readers wanting a more detailed and accurate history, including the key 1988 study from the UK spectrum regulator suggesting unlicensed in 60 GHz, might wish to read your blogger’s history page on the subject. However, most readers of the book will not be spectrum policy wonks and will probably glance over these details.

But the people who have to draft comments in Docket 14-177 and those who will be designing mmW mobile systems needs not be concerned about these points. Within its prime subject matter of CMRS uplinks/downlinks it ties together for the first time information in disparate issues such as
  • multipath mobile mmW propagation,
  • atmospheric effects
  • antenna technology including adaptive antenna technology to overcome the multipath,
  • mmW device technology, and
  • high level design issues
If you are more interested in fixed systems, I recommend the 2000 book, now somewhat dated, Modern Millimeter-Wave Technologies by Teshirogi and Yoneyama that complements this new book in many ways. Unfortunately it is out of print but much of it is available on Google Books. (Your blogger worked for a few months with Dr. Teshrogi in Japan in another technical field in the 1990s.)

866 Mbps Achieved in Unlicensed 60 GHz Band

As FCC prepares for consideration of an NOI on 24+ GHz mobile use on Friday, there is interesting news from Samsung on a major data speed increase in the 60 GHz unlicensed band. An October 12 press release says:

Samsung Electronics announced the development of its 60GHz Wi-Fi technology that enables data transmission speeds of up to 4.6Gbps, or 575MB per second, a five-fold increase from 866Mbps, or 108MB per second, the maximum speed possible with existing consumer electronics devices. As a result, a 1GB movie will take less than three seconds to transfer between devices, while uncompressed high-definition videos can easily be streamed from mobile devices to TVs in real-time without any delay.

“Samsung has successfully overcome the barriers to the commercialization of 60GHz millimeter-wave band Wi-Fi technology, and looks forward to commercializing this breakthrough technology,” said Kim Chang Yong, Head of DMC R&D Center of Samsung Electronics. “New and innovative changes await Samsung’s next-generation devices, while new possibilities have been opened up for the future development of Wi-Fi technology.”

Unlike the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi technologies, Samsung’s 802.11ad standard 60GHz Wi-Fi technology maintains maximum speed by eliminating co-channel interference, regardless of the number of devices using the same network. By doing so, Samsung’s new technology removes the gap between theoretical and actual speeds, and exhibits actual speed that is more than 10 times faster than that of 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi technologies.

Until now, there have been significant challenges in commercially adopting 60GHz Wi-Fi technology , as millimeter waves that travel by line-of-sight has weak penetration properties and is susceptible to path loss, resulting in poor signal and data performance. By leveraging millimeter-wave circuit design and high performance modem technologies and by developing wide-coverage beam-forming antenna, Samsung was able to successfully achieve the highest quality, commercially viable 60GHz Wi-Fi technology.

In addition, Samsung also enhanced the overall signal quality by developing the world’s first micro beam-forming control technology that optimizes the communications module in less than 1/3,000 seconds, in case of any changes in the communications environment. The company also developed the world’s first method that allows multiple devices to connect simultaneously to a network.

As is the case with the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrum, the 60GHz is an unlicensed band spectrum across the world, and commercialization is expected as early as next year. Samsung plans to apply this new technology to a wide range of products, including audio visual and medical devices, as well as telecommunications equipment. The technology will also be integral to developments relevant to the Samsung Smart Home and other initiatives related to the Internet of Things

Note the first sentence of the last paragraph: “As is the case with the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrum, the 60GHz is an unlicensed band spectrum across the world”. This did not happen by accident. It happened because of FCC initiatives in the 1980s and 90s that recognized technological advances had made new technology possible that was prohibited by anachronistic FCC rules at those times. The initiatives removed those prohibitions but did not require incumbent users to change their operations on bit nor did it increase their interference risk. As a result we have had technical innovation and economic economic growth.

GIGAOM comments:

While other WiGig companies like Intel, Wilocity (now owned by Qualcomm) and Nitero have been developing super-fast radios that work 60GHz channel, Samsung claims they’ve actually produced these enhanced speeds by fixing interference issues caused by other devices on the channel.

Now the problem is that the new NOI is rumored to contain a discussion about possible partial or total repurposing of the 60 GHz band for cellular communications, presumably on a licensed basis. The question to be considered on the 8th Floor is how will the fording of the 60 GHz discussion impact capital formation for innovative unlicensed 60 GHz technologies. We are sure the 60 GHz companies have less visibility on the 8th Floor than the major CTIA members and their insatiable demand for spectrum.

We hope the 8th Floor considers carefully the wording of such discussion and its impact on capital formation for ongoing unlicensed 60 GHz systems.


Chmn. Wheeler, Tear Down This 95 GHz Wall!


On October 17, FCC will consider a millimeter wave (mmW) NOI that will be the first major mmW deliberation there in more than a decade. mmW is sometimes called the “spectrum frontier” and is the upper end of radio spectrum that is enabled by breakthrough technology. Indeed, a major motivation for the NOI is that the work of Ted Rappaport of NYU and others has shown that mobile use above 24 GHz is practical.

(Your blogger recalls that in the early 1980s when Motorola was pushing for more Part 90 sharing of UHF TV spectrum - an action that indirectly resulted in DTV due to an NAB backlash - Motorola and others claimed land mobile above 1 GHz was physically impossible!)

Description of 10/17 NOI from FCC Tentative Agenda

Due to military R&D, US firms are the leaders in basic mmW technology, but commercial mmW applications lag in part due to outdated FCC policies and the general procedure of FCC to wait for petitions its in inbox. Does FCC really think that it is easy to raise capital for moving technology from IEEE journals to the marketplace win part of the process is getting FCC to act on a rulemaking to permit the new technology? As part of my teaching last year, I asked 3 prominent communications attorneys in DC how long they thought it would take for FCC to act on approving a new technology using the verging spectrum above 95 GHz. The answers were all in the 3-5 year range!

This is not how we facilitate US technological competitiveness and economic growth.
The roots of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth was a policy of FCC Chairman Ferris, later supported by Chairman Fowler, that FCC should identify promising technologies held back by anachronistic FCC policies and modify those policies to allow the technologies - with due deference to others who might be adversely affected - but not to require the new technologies. Indeed, Qualcomm cofounder Andrew Viterbi has said that the May 1985 FCC spread spectrum decision was important in enabling the final capital formation for the incorporation of Qualcomm 3 months later as it showed real FCC interest in CDMA which was then opposed by most mainstream industry players. (Cofounder Irwin Jacobs and the current Qualcomm management differ on this point and some others about the early company history.)

In a speech at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987, Ronal Reagan famously said “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Now FCC has an analogous wall in spectrum policy at 95 GHz, depicted at the top of this post. While FCC (and ITU) has spectrum allocation up to 275 GHz, it has no unlicensed or licensed service rules above 95 GHz, a point reached in October 2003. At left is a Japanese 125 GHz system used at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in quantity for moving view from stadiums to the broadcast center. Use of similar technology is not permitted under current FCC Rules! So is it surprising that despite US leadership in millimeter wave components no such systems are being made in USA?


Above is a diagram of a German 237 GHz System exceeding 100 Gbits/s. Not only is its sale and use illegal in USA, but such an experiment probably could not have even been authorized due to the recent glitch in §5.85(a) that came about in the Report and Order of Docket 10-236 that for the first time forbids all experiments in passive bands. This change was made without any explanation and without any supporting comments. A timely filed Petition for Reconsideration on this issue has received no objections in more than a year and is supported by others, yet the matter is still unresolved at FCC. (Note, if FCC can not complete the whole reconsideration order on this docket in a timely way, it could at least issue a public notice announcing an interim liberal waiver policy for mmW experiments that impinge on passive bands based on whether there will actually be interference at the place and time of the experiment and NTIA - home of “spectrum sharing is the new normal” - could say that it supports such a policy as all such bands are G/NG shared.)

So here is what we urge FCC to do at the 10/17 meeting:

  • Make clear in the NOI that the wall at 95 GHz is not intentional and is not a fundamental barrier to any proposed mmW uses.

  • Make clear that despite theTentative Agenda description given above for the NOI that FCC is open to consider all uses of spectrum in the mmW bands, fixed, mobile and others and promises timely consideration of new proposals in order to support US competitiveness in mmW technology


"Aux Armes" Netoyens:

End the War on Millimeter Wave Technology


The chorus of the Marseillaise, the French national anthem begins with:

Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons !

Which translate to

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))
German THz system

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!


Free the Spectrum >95 GHz!


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.

FCC Requests Comment on IEEE-USA >95 GHz Petition


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: qmark
If you need any help, place
contact your blogger


Where Does The Radio Spectrum End?

You blogger’s regular column on spectrum regulation in IEEE Wireless Communications for June 2013 has the above title. Actually the timing with respect to the IEEE-USA > 95 GHz petition is really a coincidence due to both publication lead times and the fact that the journal’s editor requested this specific topic.

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.

TAC on Spectrum Frontiers: Where Does Innovation Come From?

Visual from 3/11/13 FCC TAC meeting

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.

THz Trans
But where do such innovations come from? They come from innovative R&D that is privately funded to move technology out of the pages of technical journals into the marketplace. mmW technology is here! As reported previously here, a 120 GHz systems was used at the Beijing Olympics more than 4 years ago to collect HDTV video feeds at a central location. That system was developed in Japan. Present FCC Rules do not have any service rules above 95 GHz, a real damper on any business plan to develop technology above 95 GHz! The 95 GHz upper bound has been there for a decade now.

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)
I came to the FCC in 1979 in response to an initiative from Chairman Ferris who believed that there were communications technologies that were implicitly forbidden by regulations that were well intended but overcome by technical progress. Chmn. Ferris charged his staff to search out such anachronisms and propose alternative rules that would level the playing field for new technologies. Today’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are the result of this effort.

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.)

A*STAR antenna

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.

In the same CMU speech Comm. Pai rediscovered Section 7 of the Communications Act. I say “rediscovered” because FCC has been consistently ignoring it under both Republican and Democratic administrations since it was passed in 1983. (While I have wondered if Section 7 was redacted from all copies of the Comm Act at FCC, an 8th Floor insider has assured me recently that it isn’t, and it is not censured from the online version of WestLaw at FCC either.)

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.


On Moving the Upper Frontier of Commercial Spectrum Use


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
The upper limit for FCC radio service rules in at 95 GHz as it has been for almost a decade. While there are FCC allocations up to 275 GHz, the lack of service rules means that only experimental licenses are possible without a waiver or a rulemaking. Given FCC’s track record for handling new technology issues, the need for a waiver or a rulemaking is probably discouraging the capital formation necessary for new commercial products about 95 GHz. The Japanese 120 GHz system used 4 years ago at the Beijing Olympics shows that the basic technology is here.

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.


FCC Proposes New 78 - 81 GHz Rules:
"It was the best of times; It was the worst of times"

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”.

Normal (non experimental) commercial use of a band requires two basic FCC actions: An allocation which is consistent with the basic desired use (e.g. fixed or mobile) and service rules that describe the terms of use (e.g. bandwidth, power, modulation, etc.) and eligibility for a license or perhaps makes the band unlicensed. All spectrum up to 275 GHz has allocations of some kind. But the service rules at the upper end of the spectrum are spotty. As shown in the top chart, 71-76 and 81-86 GHz have service rules for “licensed light” fixed service use in Subpart Q of Part 101. 76-77 GHz is used for automotive radars authorized under §15.253. There is another Part 101 Subpart Q band at 92-95 GHz, but these are the only service rules above the 57-64 GHz unlicensed band of §15.253.

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
As shown in the chart at the top, these bands are encumbered by radio astronomy, amateur radio, and space research allocations. The NPRM is duly concerned about protecting the radio astronomy allocations even though the atmosphere makes such use in this band impractical at most places in the US except high dry mountain locations like Kitt Peak, AZ. Furthermore the realities of radio propagation and atmospheric absorption at these frequencies makes ALL interference much less likely than at the frequencies that were the basis for traditional FCC spectrum policy.

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.


MM-Wave Comms: A $500 million market within 5 years?

I received a message a few days ago from my friend, Jonathan Wells, and with his kind permission am reprinting it below. Millimeterwave communications has been a long time interest of mine and I pioneered FCC regulation in this area. It is interesting to note that 20 years ago traditionally oriented staffers at FCC tried to block my mmW initiative because no one was asking for it!

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.


Clearwire Helps 70/80 GHz Take Off!

Elsewhere on this website we have described the events that resulted in various FCC millimeterwave rules for frequencies above 57 GHz. Suffice it to say, your blogger was involved. At various times, senior colleagues of mine at FCC dismissed the need for policy activity here since no one was asking for it. (A variation of “no one ever got fired for buying IBM”)

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!