FCC Releases Adopted 6 GHz Band Item

On November 1, 2023, the FCC released the Second Report and Order, Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Memorandum Opinion and Order, allowing operation of very low power (“VLP”) unlicensed devices in two portions of the 6 GHz band, seeking comment on additional portions of the band that VLP devices should be permitted to operate in, and addressing a remand from the District of Columbia Circuit of the FCC’s 2020 Report and Order allowing unlicensed use of the 6 GHz band.  The Item was adopted at the October Open Meeting.

  • Second Report and Order

In the Second Report and Order, the FCC adopts rules to permit VLP devices to operate in the U-NII-5 and U-NII-7 portions of the 6 GHz band with up to -5 dBm/MHz EIRP power spectral density and 14 dBm EIRP.  These devices are permitted to operate anywhere, indoors and outdoors, without being under the control of a frequency coordination system, except that they may not be deployed as part of fixed outdoor infrastructure.  The FCC finds that its rules will sufficiently protect licensed incumbent operators from harmful interference.

In making this determination, the FCC reminds all parties of its recently adopted spectrum management principles, including that the electromagnetic environment is variable and zero risk of occasional service degradation or interruption cannot be guaranteed, and that services should plan for the environment they intend to operate in and account for changes in spectrum operating environments.  The FCC also emphasizes that decisions with respect to spectrum policy should be based on data and a probabilistic approach to evaluating interference risk rather than worst-case examples.

  • Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Second FNPRM”)

In the Second FNPRM, the FCC seeks comments on how to refine the VLP device rules to provide greater use of the band while protecting licensed incumbents.  Specifically, the FCC proposes to allow VLP devices to operate in the U-NII-5 through U-NII-8 bands at a PSD greater than 5 dBm/MHz (up to 1 dBm/MHz EIRP PSD and 14 dBm EIRP), provided that the devices operate under the control of a geofencing system that prevents the devices from operating in close proximity to co-channel licensed incumbent services in these bands.  Under the FCC’s proposal, the VLP access points would obtain information from a geofencing system on locations where operation is prohibited on specific frequencies and the VLP client devices would only operate under control of VLP access points.  This would be a new class of higher-power VLP devices, in addition to the ones adopted in the Second Report and Order.  The FCC seeks comment on this proposal, including the technical and operational requirements, the requirements for the geofencing system, procedures for testing and approving geofencing systems, and how to best protect incumbent services through these systems, among other things.

The FCC also seeks comment on whether to relax the restrictions on mobile use of VLP devices, how VLP devices may interact with C-V2X performance in motor vehicles, and whether to allow VLP devices that operate without a geofencing system in the U-NII-6 and U-NII-8 bands in addition to the U-NII-5 and U-NII-7 bands.

  • Memorandum Opinion and Order

In the Memorandum Opinion and Order, the FCC addressed a remand from the DC Circuit, which directed the FCC to consider whether, in light of broadcasters’ claims that they have experienced interference from unlicensed devices in the 2.4 GHz band, a portion of the 6 GHz band should be reserved for mobile broadcast operations. The FCC concluded that broadcasters’ unsubstantiated claims of interference in the 2.4 GHz band do not warrant any modification in the 6 GHz rules.

The FCC found that there was no evidence of harmful interference to broadcasters in the original record of the proceeding, and thus no modification to the rules was warranted.  Though certain broadcasters supplemented the record after the remand, the FCC found that evidence was outside the scope of the proceeding, and, even if it were properly before the FCC, the evidence was not persuasive that Wi-Fi devices have caused harmful interference to broadcast operations, particularly since there have been no complaints filed with the FCC.

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