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.
Section 7 in 1983 in response to the Commission’s endless delay in resolving issues about an innovative narrowband land mobile technology, it has carefully tried to avoid ever mentioning the existence of this provision in both decisions and publications. Section 7 is not a perfect piece of legislation. It has an explicit deadline, yet doesn’t state exactly what has to be done within that period.
The IEEE-USA letter points out that the Commission does have explicit guidelines for review of pending mergers and forbearance petitions pursuant to Section 10(c) of the Act that both give nominal time schedules. However, there is no analogous guidance on Section 7 issues.
The letter also pointed to recent White House initiatives to speed up patent review to expedite innovation:
We believe that FCC might wish to emulate the White House’s recent Startup America initiative “to dramatically increase the prevalence and success of America’s entrepreneurs.” Under part of this program the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) will offer an Enhanced Examination Timing Control Initiative “to give innovators more control over the application processing and support a more efficient market for innovation.” For wireless innovations subject to non- routine FCC approvals, FCC deliberations determine if and when diffusion, and thus positive cash flow, is possible. In contrast, the improved and more timely PTO decisions only scope the level of intellectual property protection were these cash flows possible. We urge the FCC to examine this PTO initiative and consider offering to entrepreneurs parallel programs to resolve policy deliberations on a faster, more predictable basis.
FCC has a poor track record in responding to this type of suggestion. Let’s hope they are more attentive this time. If others with like views tell Chmn. Genachowski their views, more may happen.
vox populi, vox dei
White House Announces
Maybe a Good Time for FCC to "Rediscover" Section 7 and Start Complying with it?
The White House announced today “Startup America”, “a plan for winning the future by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building the rest of the world.”
President Obama said, “Entrepreneurs embody the promise of America: the belief that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard and see it through, you can succeed in this country. And in fulfilling this promise, entrepreneurs also play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs. That’s why we're launching Startup America, a national campaign to help win the future by knocking down barriers in the path of men and women in every corner of this country hoping to take a chance, follow a dream, and start a business.”
NTIA’s parent, the Department of Commerce seems fully committed to the program
The Department of Commerce will expand the i6 Challenge to help foster the commercialization of clean technologies, and are finalizing a plan to allow entrepreneurs to request faster review of their patents, an initiative that should lower patent pendency times overall and speed the deployment of new ideas to the marketplace.
No indication whether NTIA will be involved just as there is no indication whether NTIA will follow the President’s earlier guidance that “each agency shall ensure the objectivity of any scientific and technological information and processes used to support the agency's regulatory actions.”
Readers may recall that FCC’s long term apparent disinterest in compliance with Section 7 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, has been a recurrent theme here. By contrast, let’s see what Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office is doing as part of the new program:
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) Gives Applicants Greater Control Over Examination Timing and Enables Fast-Track Examination Within 12 Months: The USPTO is pursuing an Enhanced Examination Timing Control Initiative (Three-track Examination) to give innovators more control over the application processing and support a more efficient market for innovation. Under this initiative, applicants would be able to request prioritized examination (Track I), obtain processing under the current procedure (Track II), or request a delay lasting up to 30 months (Track III). Entrepreneurs who are seeking capital, or accelerated market penetration, may benefit from the prioritized examination offered by the Track I option. In contrast, those entrepreneurs working to commercialize more embryonic ideas may prefer the extended timeframe associated with Track III. Another benefit to entrepreneurs will be shorter overall examination queues.
Section 7 is not a perfect piece of legislation. FCC has never implemented rules for administering it. FCC could ask Congress to amend it or even repeal it rather than just ignoring it. If anything, at present it is false hope for entrepreneurs and may discourage investment in entrepreneurial firms from VCs who get a cynical view of FCC’s treatment of startups in recent years.
But why don’t FCC and NTIA get on the President’s bandwagon and make life easier for wireless startups by promising decisions on some plausible schedule and real use of objective scientific information by NTIA in its presentations to FCC on shared spectrum - limited in public disclosure only by the need to protect properly classified information.