Wireless internet service providers (WISPs) are seeing faster fixed wireless speeds using spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band that the FCC is allowing them to use temporarily to help respond to increased traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press release, the FCC highlighted the experiences of 14 WISPs that have been using the spectrum, noting that they have seen bandwidth increase as much as 75% using the spectrum.

In late March, the FCC responded to a petition from 33 WISPs asking temporary permission to use the spectrum, which is a 45-MHz swath between 5.85 GHz and 5.895 GHz. The spectrum is near the 5 GHz band, which is available for unlicensed use, and which the WISPs were already using to serve customers. The WISPs were able to do a software upgrade to enable existing equipment to use both spectrum bands.

WISP 5.9 GHz Spectrum Benefits
WISPs in the FCC press release reported bandwidth increases from “nearly 40%” to “up to 75%.” Other WISP 5.9 GHz benefits cited:

  • reducing congestion on other spectrum bands
  • alleviating a maxed-out backhaul link
  • reducing congestion on some access points
  • upgrading customer speed packages by using wider channels
  • lower latency
  • dramatically decreased noise floors
  • supporting the connection of high-quality VoIP
  • better modulation in a less noisy environment
  • significant increases in quality and reliability
  • less interference, which in some cases has benefited other WISPs operating nearby
  • relieving portions of the network that were operating over capacity because of the pandemic, thereby maintaining customers’ speed and performance
  • clearing congestion

The 45 MHz of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band that the WISPs have been using is the focus of a notice of proposed rulemaking adopted by the commission late last year. In the NPRM, the FCC proposes making the spectrum that the WISPs have been using available for unlicensed use on a more permanent basis. The spectrum comprises a portion of the broader 5.9 GHz band between 5.85 GHz and 5.925 GHz, which was allocated for vehicle-to-vehicle communications back in 1999 but has seen few deployments. The FCC proposes reducing the 75 MHz originally allocated for vehicle communications to just 30 MHz.

Today’s press release about WISP 5.9 GHz benefits would seem to be strong evidence in support of the FCC proposal.  It would also seem highly likely that the commission will extend the time that the WISPs can use the spectrum, which currently is limited to 60 days.

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