Changes will allow faster implementation of service in 23 GHz and Upper 6 GHz bands.

Important changes to the FCC’s rules for fixed point-to-point microwave systems will give operators greater flexibility and allow faster initiation of service.

The first change affects the 6 GHz band. That band, the long-haul workhorse of fixed microwave, consists of two segments. The “Lower 6”, being shared with over 4,000 C-band satellite uplink earth stations, tends to be congested in populated areas. On the other hand, its maximum allowable bandwidth is relatively high, at 30 MHz. The less crowded “Upper 6” band has no earth stations, but limits channel bandwidth to only 10 MHz. An operator who needs 30 MHz, but cannot find room in the Lower 6, must request a waiver to use 30 MHz in the Upper 6. The FCC has issued about a thousand of these. But the need for a waiver rules out an immediate start of operation under the so-called conditional licensing rules, and triggers several weeks’ delay in getting these systems on the air. We wrote about these problems here.

The FCC has now amended its rules to add 30 MHz authorization to the Upper 6, thus obviating the need for waivers and allowing operators to use conditional licensing in order to commence service much more quickly.

The other change is in the 23 GHz band. Suitable for shorter distances than 6 GHz, this band is often ideal for transporting cell phone and mobile broadband signals to and from cell towers. But the band is shared with the federal government, which insists on reviewing non-federal applications on most frequencies. The need for that review bars conditional licensing and hence delays the start of operations. Conditional licensing is allowed on only four frequency pairs in the band.

The same FCC order linked above adds two more frequency pairs to the list of pairs eligible for conditional licensing (and hence immediate start-up) at 23 GHz.

Both rule changes were requested and advocated by the Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition.