Wireless Home Internet May Get a Boost From New Spectrum That the FCC is Looking to Unlock





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This could finally be the year that the Federal Communications Commission opens up a new swath of spectrum that could power different kinds of home wireless internet services and expand broadband access to more people.

Peter Smith, CEO of telecom equipment maker Aviat Networks said the agency could open up the unlicensed 6 Ghz radio airwaves as early as next month, according to the transcript of its quarterly earnings call. The news was reported earlier by Light Reading.

“[T]he FCC is saying that that should happen on March 8. And we think that when that comes, that unlicensed broadband service comes in, it will pave the way for more lightweight backhaul and we think that’s going to have a positive effect on both [Rural Digital Opportunity Fund] and [Broadband Equity Access and Deployment] appropriations,” Smith said.  

The spectrum is unlicensed, which means anyone can utilize the airwaves to deliver wireless services. That could mean creating a wireless home internet service that’s an alternative to the 5G home services offered by T-Mobile and Verizon, which paid billions of dollars for their licensed spectrum. For a company like Aviat, it means using that spectrum to help bridge the connection between cell towers and the central network, a key part of the network that often utilizes costlier physical fiber lines.

As a result, consumers could see more wireless home internet option, especially if bigger companies don’t offer their 5G-based option in their area. Or the big carriers themselves could utilize the spectrum to bolster their own coverage and reach.

But the carriers may also see it as a potential competitive threat. AT&T, for example, has pushed back on the Commission’s plans to open the 6 GHz band to unlicensed fixed wireless access services. The carrier has expressed concerns about potential “interference” with the wireless backhaul links it already operates in the 6 GHz band.

Industry experts expected the FCC to open up the 6 GHz band last year, but that didn’t come to pass.

After the Commission approved testing in the 6 GHz band in August, it opened the band to a class of “very low power devices” like smartphones and fitness trackers. The power restrictions and other requirements were put in place to protect licensed service already operating in the 6 GHz band.

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