FCC moots rule changes to boost 5G speed and breadth

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has unveiled plans to make use of extremely high frequency spectrum in 5G mobile networks.

At a meeting of the FCC this week it proposed new schemes which could expand the speed and capacity of 5G by creating a more flexible interpretation of service rules for the 28GHz, 37GHz, 39GHz and 64-71GHz bands. It also proposed to seek public comment on other bands above 24GHz that could also be used.

The tweaks could make these frequencies reach throughputs of at least 1Gbps and possibly up to 10Gbps, according to FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. If these rules were ratified, industry members would then have license to research how to solve any signal blocking distance limitations and physical obstacles.

Until now, at 28GHz and above, mobile services were thought to be unsupportable because wavelengths were too short and signal propagation losses too high, Clyburn said. Recent technological breakthroughs have changed that, he said. “Industry engineers have turned these weaknesses into strengths,” said Clyburn.

By using short wavelengths to build dynamic beam-forming antennae, they can support high-capacity networks that are small enough to fit into handsets. These engineering advances could help create 5G networks that offer much higher data speeds and substantially lower latency than today’s commercial mobile services.

Clyburn said future 5G devices will also use spectrum below 1GHz which, when used in combination with high-frequency spectrum, would help carriers create broader coverage and faster speeds. Cellular transmissions may coexist with satellite ones under the proposed rule-making.

The FCC said it intends to authorise a mix of licensed, unlicensed and shared spectrum which a US delegation will present for consideration as 5G mobile network standards at the World Radio Conference next month in Geneva.

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