On January 26, 2024, the FCC released the Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“R&O” and “FNPRM” respectively) adopting new rules and updating existing ones that govern the 71–76 GHz, 81–86 GHz, 92–94 GHz, and 94.1–95 GHz bands (collectively, the “70/80/90 GHz bands”) and seeking comment on accommodating additional services in the bands. The item was adopted at the January Open Meeting.
In the R&O, the FCC adopts the following rules:
- Endpoints in Motion in the 70 GHz and 80 GHz bands: The FCC adopted rules permitting point-to-point links to endpoints in motion, specifically links on aircraft and ships, in the 70 GHz and 80 GHz bands under the FCC’s part 101 rules. Prospective operators of service to aeronautical and maritime endpoints in motion will be required to apply for and receive a nationwide, non-exclusive license prior to operation. The license will serve as a blanket license for: (1) on the aeronautical side, air-to-air operations, and as a prerequisite to register ground-to-air (GTA) stations and associated air-to-ground (ATG) transmission; and (2) on the maritime side, as a prerequisite to register ship-to-shore, shore-to-ship, aerostat-to-ship, and aerostat-to-shore transmissions. Registration of the individual links is not required, but prior coordination and registration with the appropriate Federal agencies will be required. The FCC also adopted technical and operational rules to allow for the new operations.
- Facilitating use of the Bands for Backhaul: In order to promote more intensive use of spectrum in the 70 GHz and 80 GHz bands, including for backhaul for high-capacity 5G service, the FCC adopted changes to its antenna standards that will allow licensees to use smaller, lower cost antennas in the 70 GHz and 80 GHz bands and a channelization plan for the band.
- Antenna Standards: The FCC relaxes the antenna requirements for the 70 GHz and 80 GHz bands to align them more closely with the requirements for point-to-point operations for other part 101 bands. This includes changes to the maximum bandwidth, antenna gain, and co-polar and cross-polar discrimination requirements.
- Channelization Plan: The FCC adopts a channelization plan that is consistent with Recommendation ITU-R F.2006, which provides different channel sizes from 250 MHz up to 5 GHz, and includes a plan for 1.25 GHz segmentation, to make interference mitigation between licensees more manageable.
- Improving the Link Registration System (“LRS”): The FCC will require licensees in the 70/80/90 GHz band to file a certification that they have built the link within 15 days from the end of the 12-month construction period following registration. The link will be removed from LRS on the 16th day if no certification is received. The FCC will also permit de minimis modifications to registrations that are exclusively for the purpose of repairing or replacing installed and operating equipment, provided that there are no changes to any registered technical parameters that would change the potential for a link to cause or receive interference.
- Other Issues: The FCC declines to take action on several other issues raised by the Commission or commenters, including operational issues along the United States’ international borders, the possibility of bringing HAPS and/or other stratospheric-based platform services into the bands, and SpaceX’s request to allow the registration of FSS earth stations in the third-party link registration database for the bands.
The adopted rules will be effective 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, except for the channelization plan, which will take effect on September 1, 2024.
2. Draft FNPRM
In the FNPRM, the FCC seeks comment on the potential inclusion of FSS earth stations in the third-party database registration regime in the 70 and 80 GHz bands, as requested by SpaceX. In particular, the FCC seeks comment on whether this inclusion is feasible, whether the inclusion would have negative effects on incumbent services, what changes to the system would need to be made, and under what protection criteria they should be included, among other things.
Comments will be due 30 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.
Reply comments will be due 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.
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