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FCC votes for wireless backhaul reform

The FCC has voted to remove outdated regulatory barriers and to open up 650 MHz additional spectrum for broadband services that carry voice and data communications from cell sites, businesses, wireless Internet access points and other facilities to the public telephone network and the Internet.

It was another step in the FCC’s push for ubiquitous broadband deployment and the dedication of more spectrum for wireless broadband as outlined in the National Broadband Plan. The vote was unanimous, and the FCC said it hopes this will stimulate additional broadband deployment in rural America.

The FCC said wireless technology is an increasingly important method for facilitating video backhaul, as the overall demand for capacity continues to increase. In some rural and remote locations, fixed microwave links may be the only practical option for backhaul.

“Finding new opportunities to use wireless backhaul, and ways to use it more effectively, will help to solve the broadband capacity puzzle as more Americans use smart phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices to browse the web, use email and download applications wirelessly,” said John Schauble, the FCC’s Deputy Division Chief, Broadband Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

The FCC’s Report & Order takes several actions, including making additional spectrum available for wireless backhaul—as much as 650 megahertz, especially in rural areas — by permitting fixed microwave links to operate in several bands previously reserved for specialized microwave services. It would permit microwave licensees to use “adaptive modulation,” which allows licensees to use the latest technology to maintain the reliability of critical links.

Eliminating the “final link rule” permits broadcasters to use fixed microwave links more freely, and it includes a rulemaking that seeks comment on additional proposals for making microwave communications more flexible and cost-effective.

This includes allowing smaller antennas in certain microwave bands, which could result in cost savings for licensees and allow more deployments of microwave facilities; and exempting licensees in non-congested areas from the FCC’s efficiency standards, which may make use of fixed microwave links more cost-effective in rural areas.