An industry coalition wants access to mid-band airwaves that, according to the group, could support as many as three providers of gigabit fixed wireless service in the same geographic area. The group, known as the Broadband Access Coalition, made a filing with the FCC today asking the commission to allow the use of spectrum between 3.7 GHz and 4.2 GHz for fixed wireless use on a shared basis with incumbent licensees who use the spectrum for satellite distribution of cable television content.
“We think this is the right band to get something going to help regional ISPs service their local areas,” said Jaime Fink, co-founder and chief product officer for fixed wireless equipment developer Mimosa Networks, which spearheaded the FCC filing, along with the Wireless Internet Service Provider Association (WISPA). The Broadband Access Coalition has 23 members in total, most of whom are service providers, including Cincinnati Bell, Fink said.
“We think this is an opportunity to move as quickly as 12 to 24 months,” said Fink.
Broadband Access Coalition Proposal
As Fink explained, the satellite companies that currently use the 3.7-4.2 GHz spectrum band “typically only point in one direction and only use a fraction of the spectrum,” he said.
Fink envisions using a technology somewhat similar to what is used to manage TV white spaces spectrum or what will be used to manage spectrum in the 3.5 CBRS band so that non-incumbent users can use the spectrum where it is vacant.
The industry “shouldn’t have to create anything new here,” Fink said.
The Broadband Access Coalition is recommending that the FCC set a per-tower, per-“pie wedge” license area for fixed wireless providers to use the 3.7-4.2 GHz spectrum on a point-to-multipoint basis, Fink explained. For now, at least, the coalition is also asking that the spectrum be reserved for fixed, not mobile wireless.
It would be difficult for mobile service providers to use the spectrum because of the geographic limitations required to accommodate incumbent users, Fink said. He noted, though, that the cable TV industry has been moving away from satellite content distribution and that eventually it might be more feasible to open up the spectrum for mobile use.
For now, reserving the spectrum for fixed use would help keep the cost of the spectrum affordable for WISPs, Fink said, noting that the spectrum could be well suited to bringing high-speed broadband to suburban and rural areas.
Spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band can support a relatively high number of bits per hertz over a shorter distance in comparison with lower-frequency spectrum.
“It’s very similar to the 5 GHz Wi-Fi band as far as propagation goes and the ability to get through trees” and other obstacles, said Fink. “Today, in the 5 GHz band, I deliver services in suburban areas out to about a quarter of a mile in high-density markets.”
In rural areas, using a larger antenna, some installations provide coverage out to 15 miles, he said.
Image courtesy of flickr user Stefano Brivio.