FCC Approves Certain 6 GHz AFC Systems

On February 23, 2024, the Office of Engineering and Technology (“OET”) released a Public Notice announcing the approval of seven 6 GHz band automated frequency coordination (“AFC”) systems for commercial operations and seeking comment on C3 Spectra’s proposed AFC system.  Specifically, OET has approved the AFC systems operated by Qualcomm Incorporated, Federated Wireless, Inc., Sony Group Corporation, Comsearch, a CommScope Company, the Wi-Fi Alliance Services Corporation, the Wireless Broadband Alliance, Inc., and Broadcom Inc, subject to certain conditions noted below. OET concludes that the results from the lab testing and public trial of these seven AFC systems indicate that they operate in conformance with the Commission’s 6 GHz band (5.925-7.125 GHz) unlicensed rules.  Accordingly, they may now manage access to spectrum in the U-NII-5 (5.925-6.425 GHz) and U-NII-7 (6.525-6.875 GHz) portions of the 6 GHz band for standard power access points and fixed client devices.

OET also addressed challenges in the record from AT&T, EPRI, and First Energy.  While OET largely rejects the challenges from EPRI and First Energy, finding that the testing process sufficiently addressed the software and modeling concerns raised by these two challengers, OET adopts several conditions to address AT&T’s concerns.  AT&T submitted several challenges to each of the AFC systems and subsequently worked with the AFC system engineers to address differences between the results calculated by AT&T and those calculated by the AFC systems.  AT&T noted that reasonable engineers could differ in their interpretation of the propagation models, and that in some circumstances, a modification to the AFC system was appropriate after conferring with AT&T.  AT&T accordingly recommended OET adopt several conditions to address concerns regarding future changes to AFC systems.  In response to AT&T’s concerns, OET requires each AFC operator to:  (1) file a notice in ET Docket No. 21-352 informing OET and the public of any modification to its AFC system that can change the available frequency ranges and maximum power levels determined by its AFC system; and (2) receive OET approval prior to implementing any proposed modification.  Depending on the significance and complexity of the modification, OET may require some form of testing or verification.   OET also adopted one additional condition to address reports of harmful interference: AFC operators are required to develop and implement a process for responding to reports of harmful interference in a timely and efficient manner by April 23, 2024, or else they must cease operations.

Finally, OET also seeks comment on C3Spectra’s proposal, filed subsequent to the initial wave of AFC proposals received by the Commission, to become an approved AFC system operator.  Comments on C3Sprectra’s AFC Proposal are due by March 15, 2024.

The FCC also released accompanying News Release on the approvals, wherein the FCC’s Chief Engineer Ron Repasi noted that these approvals “mark a major milestone for widespread deployment of unlicensed operations in the 6 GHz spectrum band and for the unlicensed ecosystem overall” and “will expand access to new technology, applications and services.”

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