Often at odds with the FCC over such debates as “net neutrality,” communications giants AT&T and Verizon as well as two industry groups had only words of praise with the fed regulatory agency after it voted to open up spectrum for the next generation of wireless communications: 5G.

“The FCC Order puts the U.S. on track to become the first country in the world to open up wide swaths of high-band spectrum, which is critical to ensure that the U.S. retains its global leadership in advanced wireless communications,” Verizon posted in a blog.

“5G promises to have a transformative impact on communications, but it will also power the Internet of Things and revolutionize other industries.”

Added Joan Marsh, AT&T’s vice president for federal regulatory matters: “The mmWave spectrum bands authorized today will serve as the launchpad for 5G development and deployment in the U.S.”

MmWave refers spectrum above 24 GHz. (See explanation below about specific spectrum involved.)

The FCC plans to auction some spectrum and enable some sharing.

  • More coverage: Watch a video of FCC Chair Tom Wheller talking about 5G at the National Press Club at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNH35Kcao60

Both wireless giants want 5G as a means of speeding up and improving wireless access beyond the current 4G. 5G has shown great promise to deliver data at very high speeds in lab tests.

The TechFreedom think tank also praised the FCC move.

“Freeing up the airwaves is essential for addressing the looming spectrum crunch and ongoing explosion in demand for mobile broadband,” said Tom Struble, the Policy Counsel at TechFreedom.

Specific spectrum in FCC decision

Source: FCC

  • Specifically, the rules create a new Upper Microwave Flexible Use service in the 28 GHz (27.5-28.35 GHz), 37 GHz (37-38.6 GHz), and 39 GHz (38.6-40 GHz) bands, and an unlicensed band at 64-71 GHz.
  • Licensed use in the 28 GHz, 37 GHz and 39 GHz bands: Makes available 3.85 GHz of licensed, flexible use spectrum, which is more than four times the amount of flexible use spectrum the FCC has licensed to date.
  • Provides consistent block sizes (200 MHz), license areas (Partial Economic Areas), technical rules, and operability across the exclusively licensed portion of the 37 GHz band and the 39 GHz band to make 2.4 GHz of spectrum available.
  • Provides two 425 MHz blocks for the 28 GHz band on a county basis and operability across the band.
  • Unlicensed use in the 64-71 GHz band: Makes available 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum which, when combined with the existing high-band unlicensed spectrum (57-64 GHz), doubles the amount of high-band unlicensed spectrum to 14 GHz of contiguous unlicensed spectrum (57-71 GHz). These 14 GHz will be 15 times as much as all unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum in lower bands.
  • Shared access in the 37-37.6 GHz band: Makes available 600 MHz of spectrum for dynamic shared access between different commercial users, and commercial and federal users.
  • We are promoting sharing schemes to ensure different users are able to share spectrum.

“While the FCC’s minority Commissioners felt that the initial proposal didn’t go far enough, in terms of exploring and opening up the highest spectrum bands for experimental uses, their concerns were largely addressed in today’s order, which garnered bipartisan support. The Commission could have moved much faster here, as applications for new high-band wireless services have been in limbo for several years, despite the 12-month statutory deadline for ruling on such applications, but this is nonetheless a great step forward.”

Joining the praise was the Wireless Infrastructure Association.

“The Wireless Infrastructure Association is pleased that the FCC unanimously voted to open up more spectrum for the next generation of mobile communications, leading the world as the first nation to identify high-band spectrum for mobile wireless usee,” said Jonathan Adelstein, its CEO. “As the wireless industry continues to develop the technologies that will lead to the widespread deployment of 5G networks, it is critical that we leverage as much spectrum for flexible use as we can.”

“We agree with Chairman [Tom] Wheeler when he calls this action by the FCC one of the most important decisions it made this year. This move to open up new “Spectrum Frontiers” positions our wireless industry to continue its leadership in the rapid advancement of wireless services consumers are demanding.”