NAB: Spectrum Request by Tech Companies Doesn’t Add Up

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WASHINGTON—In the ongoing battle for spectrum, NAB’s Associate General Counsel Patrick McFadden recently wrote in a blog post that a group of tech companies’ argument for why they need additional spectrum, specifically in the 6 GHz band, doesn’t add up.

Representatives from Apple, Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Facebook, Google and Qualcomm Incorporated met with the Office of Engineering and Technology in December of 2019 to discuss their potential use of the 6 GHz band. According to McFadden, the group is seeking free access to 1,200 MHz of spectrum that includes the entire 6 GHz band.

In its December meeting, the tech companies presented that their very-low-power (VLP) devices that would use the spectrum do not pose a harmful interference risk and are critical for personal area network (PAN) applications and vehicular applications. The companies gave a presentation that detailed how 90% of the time its VLPs are using less than 1% of the spectrum; 99% of the time it is less than 7%.

McFadden describes this bit of data as a ploy by the tech companies.

“They want to hype up the demand for Wi-Fi by saying other bands are overcrowded but at the same time try to placate 6 GHz incumbents about fears of future interference by downplaying their 5 GHz use,” said McFadden. “Either the other bands available for Wi-Fi use are severely underutilized and the FCC should abandon the proposed giveaway of the entire 6 GHz band, or those bands are in fact heavily used and incumbents should be extraordinarily concerned about the potential for harmful interference.”

As an alternative to the tech companies’ request for complete access to the 6 GHz band, McFadden suggests that the FCC makes the lower 500 MHz of the band available for unlicensed use—an idea that many broadcasters have already said they would be open to—while also issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to explore whether additional Wi-Fi spectrum is actually necessary, how to protect the incumbent broadcast and public safety mobile users and if other options should be considered.

McFadden’s full piece is available on NAB’s blog