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FCC Realigns Microwave Channels

In August the FCC allowed microwave operators to create higher capacity links by creating 60 MHz-wide channels in the 5925-6425 MHz band and 80 MHz-wide channels in the 10700-11700 MHz band. The Order allowing the wider channels was released this August, but there was a problem with it as the specified center frequencies did not allow channels to be created that aligned with the narrower 30 MHz and 40 MHz channels in the 6 and 11 GHz bands, respectively. This meant a single wideband channel effectively blocked use of three narrower bandwidth channels.

Last week the FCC released Order FCC 12-122 modifying the center channel to eliminate the offset, so that one wideband channel overlaps two narrower channels.

The Order states: “Absent action now, applicants that apply for wider channels would have to either specify the offset channel center frequencies and possibly change frequencies later, or seek a waiver to use non-offset channels, which would delay their ability to commence service. We see no reason to delay action to correct our rules. Accordingly, we amend Section 101.147 of the Commission’s rules as described in the attached Appendix in order to correct the center frequencies for 60 megahertz channels in the Lower 6 GHz band and for 80 megahertz channels in the 11 GHz band.”

While this change will make it easier for wireless providers to provide the ever-increasing amount of capacity to wireless sites, FCC rules that allow Part 101 users into the broadcast auxiliary bands at 7 and 13 GHz also allow broadcasters to use these frequencies. While it seems unlikely that one TV station would need the bandwidth offered by the wideband channel, the revised center frequencies should make it easier for broadcasters to find a narrower channel for links to remote sites with less impact on wireless carriers who need the wider channels.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.