Will Wireless Broadband Go Rural?

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission kicked off a process this week that may open up more radio frequency spectrum for high-speed wireless services in rural parts of the country.

The FCC proposed allowing unlicensed devices to operate in some or all of a frequency band between 3650 MHz and 3700 MHz, while also seeking comment on licensed use of the band or segmentation of the band for both types of use, according to an FCC statement.

Wireless Internet service providers want to use the spectrum to economically deliver broadband to individual customers and Internet gateways in sparsely populated areas, the FCC says.

Either licensed or unlicensed users would have to avoid interference with fixed satellite service (FSS) earth stations that already use spectrum in that range, the FCC says, while noting that those earth stations are located primarily on the east and west coasts.

Basic Requirements

To prevent interference, the unlicensed devices would have to meet a set of requirements the agency laid out in the statement.

Among these is a requirement that unlicensed gear for fixed wireless services would have to be professionally installed. The need for professional installation has stymied some deployments of fixed wireless services because of high per-installation cost, according to Phil Redman, an analyst at Gartner, based in Stamford, Connecticut.

Such fixed wireless devices also could not be set up within a protected zone around each FSS earth station. Mobile unlicensed devices would have to detect an FSS base station and use a "listen-before-talk" rule to prevent interference, and also would have to emit an identifying signal so they could be located if interference occurred, according to the statement.

Licensed services could use technologies similar to those to prevent interference, the FCC says.

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