This month, the Federal Communications Commission allowed a plan to make the spectrum above 95 GHz more readily accessible for new innovative services and technologies. Calling the initiative “Spectrum Horizons Experimental Radio Licenses,” the plan is outlined in a First Report and Order, which allows a number of changes to existing rules, including:
- a new category of experimental licenses, to increase opportunities for entities to develop new services and technologies from 95 GHz to 3 THz, with no limits on geography or technology; and
- making 15.2 gigahertz of spectrum available for unlicensed use.
The Order specifically allows two types of operations:
- A Spectrum Horizons experimental radio license can be issued for the purpose of testing and marketing devices on frequencies above 95 GHz, where there are no existing service rules. Licenses are issued for a term of 10 years and may not be renewed.
- Unlicensed operations are allowed in the bands 116-123 GHz, 174.8-182 GHz, 185-190 GHz, and 244-246 GHz, that are consistent with the rules proposed in the Spectrum Horizons, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order.
Part 15 of the FCC Rules was also amended to extend operational limitations and interference measurements covering frequencies above 95 GHz.
The new rules provide that the Commission may, at any time without notice or hearing, modify or cancel a Spectrum Horizons License, if, in its discretion, the need for such action arises. Some commenters raised the issue that this could result in an abuse of the complaint process, but the Commission pushed back, saying they “routinely work with parties to resolve potential or actual issues…”
The Commission withheld action on their proposal for licensed fixed point-to-point operations in a total of 102.2 gigahertz of spectrum, and opposed the concerns of the ham-radio organization ARRL regarding protection from interference. In defending the latter position, the Commission states, “both the amateur radio service and the experimental licensing program are designed to contribute to the advancement of radio knowledge,” and goes on to say that “we will instead require all Spectrum Horizons License applicants to submit an interference analysis that would address the potential effects of the experimental operation on existing services.”
In addition to Chairman Ajit Pai, the proposal has general support — albeit with certain cautions — from all four of the other commissioners, who evenly represent both sides of the political aisle.