FCC looks to boost next-gen wireless networks with 24GHz study

Watchdog examines plans to add new spectrum room

The FCC is opening up a probe into a possible new class of wireless broadband services which could improve mobile network performance and reliability in the US.

The watchdog said that it would be examining the possibility of opening up very high frequency 24GHz spectrum space for use by future mobile broadband networks, possibly clearing the way for new spectrum space to open and allow for better coverage and network performance on wireless data services in the US.

The FCC said that the 24GHz space has not previously been considered for wireless broadband use, due in large part to technical limitations which have thus far made operating mobile data networks at such high frequencies impossible.

With a new class of technologies on the horizon, however, the use of the millimeter wave spectrum could be possible with the next generation (5G) of mobile broadband systems and the FCC's Technological Advisory Council has recommended taking a closer look at those technologies.

As such, the Commission said that it would begin exploring what would be involved in opening up the 24GHz space for use so that the FCC would be ready when those technologies reach the market.

"It's been long assumed that frequencies even higher up on the spectrum chart could not support mobile applications due to physical and technical limitations. But smart thinkers, innovators, and technologists are devising solutions to this previous perceived limitation," FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement.

"By using innovative technologies that can simultaneously track and acquire multiple signals reflecting and ricocheting off obstacles in the physical environment, future devices might be able to leverage much higher frequency bands, those above 24GHz, for mobile applications. This technology could theoretically dramatically increase wireless broadband speeds and throughput – up to 10 gigabits per second."

The management and allocation of wireless spectrum space has been among Wheeler's biggest tasks as head of the FCC. With wireless carriers constantly seeking more room to operate their wireless broadband networks, the FCC has been trying to open up more spectrum space to allow carriers to expand their coverage and improve speed and reliability for wireless broadband.

The commission is currently in the process of preparing an incentive auction in which television broadcasters will give up some of their broadcast space to carriers who will use the channels to carry wireless data. ®

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