FCC seeks comments on Part 15 wideband waiver request.

L-3 scanner-2By now we all know the drill. Shoes off. Or not. Separate oneself from luggage, coats, electronics, various other items. Stand in line. And when the TSA calls you forward, step into the body scanner, feet on the footprints, arms in the air. We do this because … well, we have to, if we want to get on our flights. But also because we like the idea that it helps keep bad guys from getting on our plane.

The scanners, made by L-3 Communications Security and Detection Systems, use advanced wideband imaging technology that operates in 24.25-30 GHz. For those worried about what exactly TSA is looking at while we assume the “scan position,” rest assured that it is not those areas that you prefer to keep private – TSA agents essentially see a sketch of a generic person, with the location of anything that needs to be investigated marked off. (And for those who worry about the safety of the scans, the RF power level that a passenger is exposed to is thousands of times lower than what that passenger is exposed to from a cell phone.)

Like other unlicensed devices that emit RF energy, the L-3 scanners must meet certain FCC Part 15 technical requirements. But as often happens with emerging technologies, the FCC rules don’t quite account for certain particularities of the L-3 device. Several years ago, the scanners got a little help from the FCC in the form of a waiver of several Part 15 rules.

Now, L-3 is seeking another waiver. While 24.25-30 GHz is certainly wideband, it is not wideband enough for L-3, which is looking to do a better job helping out the TSA. So L-3 is seeking permission to expand its operating bandwidth to 20-40 GHz, which necessitates waiver of another Part 15 rule, one that generally, but not always, prohibits unlicensed operations on certain frequency bands. L-3 provides a technical showing that its system can protect others who use those bands.

As is customary in this sort of thing, the FCC has invited the public to take a look at the waiver request and provide the FCC any thoughts they might have on the subject. Comments are due by March 21, 2016 and replies are due by April 5. You can file through the FCC’s online ECFS webpage; refer to Proceeding No. 16-45.

[Blogmeister’s Note: FHH represents L-3 in this matter.]