On October 31, 2016 OTI and Public Knowledge filed reply comments in response to the Federal Communication Commissions Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning the use and appropriate allocation of spectrum in the bands above 24 GHz.
As consumer advocates, OTI and PK believe that the public interest goals of promoting competition, market entry, intensive spectrum re-use, and spectrum access for diverse users and uses are best served by ensuring that there is a more balanced mix of licensed, unlicensed and dynamic shared access to what will otherwise be grossly-underutilized mmW spectrum. Relying too heavily on a traditional licensing scheme, based on exclusive access to large geographic areas for inherently small cell deployments, is guaranteed to leave the spectrum unused for many years, and perhaps permanently, in low-density environments and inside hundreds of thousands of venues where users should be able to choose to use mmW spectrum in a way that best suits their particular needs. In contrast, the only proven model to achieve high rates of spectrum reuse – and both fast and affordable wireless connectivity indoors – is open and opportunistic access by both operators and end users to open access (unlicensed) small cell spectrum. Accordingly, our groups were heartened to see strong support in the record for three important policy innovations:
First, there is widespread support for the Commission’s proposal to authorize opportunistic access on a use-it-or-share-it basis across the entire 37-39 GHz band and, if and when feasible, to the 28 GHz and other millimeter wave bands allocated for exclusive licensing. Comments from the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, a global coalition of high-tech companies, as well as comments filed by a diverse range of individual companies and associations, agree that a ’use-or-share’ approach would accomplish a number of public interest objectives, including more intensive use of fallow spectrum capacity, lowering barriers of entry to a diverse range of uses and users, and providing added incentives for licensees to construct and operate facilities. These commenters join OTI and PK in urging the Commission to leverage the capabilities of a Spectrum Access System (SAS) to make as much unused spectrum available as possible.
Predictably, comments from mobile carriers and their suppliers repeat all the same arguments against opportunistic access to unused spectrum capacity that they made during the 3.5 GHz proceeding – arguments the Commission rejected. Opponents ignore two crucial facts: If the Commission certifies a SAS or similar geolocation database mechanism, there is absolutely no downside or risk for licensees. Licensees maintain all of their rights to use the public resource and lose only their ability to warehouse it. In addition, far from being “experimental,” the SAS and the use-or-share rule adopted for CBRS in the 3.5 GHz band will be operational and proven long before (probably years before) the 37 – 39 GHz band is auctioned and its licensees actually commence service, whether “5G” or otherwise. The Commission can make implementation of opportunistic access contingent on final certification of a SAS or other geolocation database needed to protect licensed operations, just as it did in the CBRS context.
Second, commenters representing many of the largest Internet and high-tech firms support extending the Commission’s innovative Part 96 framework and SAS coordination mechanism to enable open and shared access to the 37 – 37.6 GHz band that the Report & Order has allocated for Shared Access licensing. OTI and PK agree that licensing by rule in a manner that is as similar as possible to General Authorized Access under the Part 96 rules will create a flexible sharing framework that will best advance the public interest goals of promoting innovation, market entry, competition, intensive spectrum reuse, and accommodate diverse uses and users.
Thanks to the Commission’s operability requirement, the different access regimes for the lower and upper segments of the 37 GHz band become complementary, each enhancing the value of the other, exactly as the diversity of access offered by PAL and GAA spectrum at 3.5 GHz will do. Upper segment licensees can expand their operations at low cost by adding capacity using 37 – 37.6 GHz spectrum, even if it’s on an as-needed or best-efforts basis. Because coverage areas will be very small, it’s highly likely that a licensee with exclusive access to a channel or two above 37.6 GHz will discover that it can greatly enhance that capacity with opportunistic access to 37 – 37.6 GHz spectrum. For small operators, innovators and individual venues, the availability of 600 megahertz of open and shared GAA-like spectrum in the lower 37 GHz segment not only enables at least a modest deployment without a wide-area exclusive license, but it also encourages the opportunistic use of unused spectrum above 37.6 GHz. Finally, the record demonstrates considerable agreement that the light-licensing framework for fixed wireless links in the 70/80 GHz bands is appropriate given the propagation characteristics and that the Commission should refrain from introducing a three-tier regulatory framework that includes exclusive licenses on an exclusive geographic-area basis. OTI, PK and other commenters believe that the public interest is best served by an underlay of “mobile” (really nomadic) use on an unlicensed basis, at a minimum for indoor-only use. Unlicensed, low power use can be added without disrupting the current and very valuable use of the band for fixed links and backhaul. Since most high-capacity broadband use is indoors, the availability of greater capacity on an open and unlicensed basis inside every building would serve the public interest. OTI, PK and other commenters recommend that the Commission also authorize secondary access for low-power, outdoor use under Part 15 that is subject to coordination by a geolocation database.
Download the full comments below: