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On Friday, the FCC approved seven companies to offer automated frequency coordination (AFC) systems for spectrum in the 6 GHz band. According to an announcement from the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), that leaves just two more milestones that the fixed wireless industry will have to meet before providers can begin using spectrum in the band to offer faster fixed wireless access (FWA) speeds.

Telecompetitor spoke with Richard Bernhardt, WISPA spectrum advisor, about those milestones. More on that later in this post.

6 GHz AFC

The 6 GHz band includes a wide swath of 1200 MHz of spectrum between 5.925 and 7.125 GHz that is currently used for point-to-point fixed wireless communications, primarily for backhaul connectivity for broadcasters and others. Those entities will continue to use the spectrum for that purpose but will share it with fixed wireless providers and entities wanting to use it for Wi-Fi communications on an unlicensed basis.

The purpose of the AFC systems is to enable shared use of the band at full-power outdoor use. (Spectrum in the band already can be used at reduced power levels for indoor operation.)

Fixed wireless providers expect to be able to use the 6 GHz spectrum in combination with spectrum in a neighboring band to achieve speeds up to a gigabit per second. Spectrum in the 6 GHz band is considered mid-band spectrum, which many view as supporting the optimal mixture of speed and cove

Remaining Hurdles

Bernhardt pointed Telecompetitor to an FCC public notice, which outlines one of the remaining hurdles. AFC system operators have until April 23 to establish “a centralized means to receive and address complaints regarding purported harmful interference from AFC-authorized unlicensed operations.”

The seven approved 6 GHz AFC operators can operate between now and April 23, but if they haven’t put the interference complaint process in place by that date, they will have to cease operation until the process is implemented, the FCC said.

The other remaining hurdle is for more manufacturers of 6 GHz equipment to obtain FCC approval. A key challenge here is for the manufacturers to demonstrate compliance with a geolocation system, Bernhardt said.

The seven entities approved to operate AFC systems for the 6 GHz band are:

  • Broadcom
  • Comsearch
  • Federated Wireless
  • Qualcomm
  • Sony
  • Wi-Fi Alliance
  • Wireless Broadband Alliance

More AFC system options could be coming. As of November 2022, six other entities had received conditional FCC approval.

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