Inform[ED]™ Wireless Tackles Spectrum Policy with FCC Commissioners
Last month in New York, CableLabs hosted its inaugural Inform[ED] Wireless conference, where we gathered leaders and luminaries to chart the evolution of wireless networks. Consumers’ appetite for wireless continues to grow, and fixed networks - like cable and its Wi-Fi assets - become ever more important to satisfying their needs.
The program was holistic, touching on business strategy, technology, and of course policy, which is fundamental to the future of wireless. Spectrum is the key enabler of our wireless future, and we were fortunate to hear what the FCC has in store from Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Michael O’Reilly, in a conversation facilitated by NCTA Executive Vice President James Assey.
Unlicensed Spectrum, Past and Future
Commissioner Rosenworcel began by grounding the group in some history, noting that Wi-Fi as we know and love it today is, essentially, a happy policy accident. In liberalizing the 2.4 GHz frequency band for wider unlicensed uses in the 1980s, the FCC could not imagine the industry-driven innovation that would take place in what were then considered ‘junk bands’.
Now that Wi-Fi has become consumers’ on-ramp to digital opportunity, the FCC is much more intentionally building on that success. Commissioner O’Reilly noted the substantial opportunity to usher in next-generation gigabit Wi-Fi by opening new bandwidth in the critical 5 GHz frequency band. A portion of 5 GHz is used by Wi-Fi today; by expanding the spectrum available there, consumers would win big through improved broadband speed and capacity.
To make that happen, the FCC is considering how Wi-Fi should share spectrum with another service, known as Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC). DSRC received a 5 GHz spectrum allocation in 1999, and is envisioned by the auto industry to provide vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Since it has not yet been deployed, it is the perfect time to determine spectrum sharing regime.
CableLabs has written on this topic, providing the technical foundation for the progress that is possible here, just as we have driven forward Wi-Fi spectrum opportunities previously. Working together, with outspoken leaders like the Commissioners Rosenworcel and O’Reilly, we should be able to turn that possibility of progress on 5 GHz into reality.
Growing the Pie Through Sharing
There are no easy wins in spectrum policy. As demand for wireless grows across sectors and services, sharing the spectrum more efficiently becomes increasingly important. By enabling more dynamic use of the spectrum – particularly in frequencies used by the Federal government, according to Commissioner O’Reilly – we can grow the pie for new uses, instead of trying to carve up smaller, unsatisfying slices.
Commissioner Rosenworcel noted that the FCC is moving forward with an approach that would do just that. In the 3.5 GHz frequency band, new commercial uses will be enabled later this year, which will share the spectrum with U.S. Naval radar systems through a database-driven access architecture. When the Navy isn’t sailing nearby, consumers will be able use the spectrum.
CableLabs is doing research in this area under an experimental license from the FCC. We are also helping to build the all-important access database architecture through the industry body that is leading the effort, known as the WinnForum.
To the Next Frontier
There is much buzz in the industry about ‘5G’ – the next generation of mobile technology – which is likely to use spectrum in higher frequencies than have been typical to date. These are the ‘spectrum frontiers’, where no mobile system has yet ventured, but will be integral to network densification and capacity augmentation, and will drive fixed/mobile convergence.
Commissioners O’Reilly and Rosenworcel both expressed a desire for the US to take a leadership role in 5G development, which the FCC will assist by making new ‘spectrum frontiers’ available – including the 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 60 GHz bands – as early as this summer.
Research in this area is progressing apace, and 3GPP, the mobile standards body in which CableLabs participates, is beginning to specify the details of what 5G will look like. But ultimately, progress toward 5G will depend on spectrum availability, in the US and abroad. The International Telecommunications Union is gearing up to address this in 2019. By the sound of it, the FCC will be well down the path toward these new frontiers by then.
Please Join CableLabs at Inform[ED]™ Wireless
The cable industry has been playing an increasing role in advancing wireless technologies as fixed and mobile networks are converging. Today the cable industry provides wireless customers with the largest footprint of wireless hotspots in an environment of increasing mobility as well as providing backhaul connections to mobile operator cell sites. To meet the predicted 1000x increase in wireless data over the next 10-12 years, it is expected that a large part of this will be achieved by small cell deployments inside homes and offices on cable. There are opportunities for the cable and wireless technologists to collaborate on technologies such as 5G, WiFi and small cells to deliver an improved customer experience in the future.
CableLabs is hosting its first-ever Inform[ED] Wireless Conference to bring together cable and wireless technologists in addition to business analysts and policy leaders. Please join me on April 13 in New York City where you will learn from a diverse panel of speakers who have insights into the technology roadmaps, the business opportunities and the regulatory and political landscape of convergence.
CableLabs has confirmed a diverse and talented group of speakers for the event. Representing academia will be Ted Rappaport and Gerhard Fettweis. Dr. Rappaport is founding Director of NYU Wireless and has authored several books on mobile communications. He will be joined by Professor Gerhard Fettweis of Dresden Technical University who is best known as the man behind the tactile internet and Professor Rahim Tafazolli of the University of Surrey who heads the UK’s 5G Innovation center. Two FCC commissioners, Michael O’Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel, will provide their points of view on the direction of network convergence. We also have Bob Berner, CTO of Rogers Communications, giving his perspective as both a mobile and cable operator. Industry representatives from Qualcomm, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent and Comcast will debate their points of view. Never before has such a talented group of speakers joined together for a single-day focused event.
As the world moves to an increasingly personal, mobile and wireless world, this is an event that can not be missed. Organized into an efficient single-day conference, we will cover strategies, technologies, and policies. Consider this conference as a great opportunity to learn about the evolution from today’s network to 5G and the role of cable networks. Future cable access technologies will be evaluated, taking into consideration millimetric wave-band small cells. The evolution of WiFi and its expanded role within the home and beyond. During the conference, we will dive into the sharing of spectrum in the 3.5 Ghz band. We will also address the tactile internet and latency requirements. The day will conclude with a clear vision of the future.
Registration for Inform[ED] Wireless is in progress. Reserve a seat for your colleagues and yourself by registering now. I look forward to meeting you in April in NYC.