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5G, 6G, and the FCC: Discussing New Standards for the Future

By Alex Passett

A mere few days ago, I penned a 5G/6G-related article centered around a “5G check-in” (in terms of where we’re at with it, as a society) and what may be happening in terms of 6G. For the U.S., specifically, this coverage detailed the Biden administration’s current aim to “shape 6G telecom developments before any adversaries can build early leads.” Per a statement from Anne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology, “We want to take the full list of lessons we’ve learned from 5G – about the importance of early involvement and resilience – and drive an approach to 6G that optimizes performance, accessibility and, most of all, security.”

I ended that article with a statement of my own about how hot this 5G/6G topic has been; even when I attended this year’s massive ITEXPO in February, experts speculated in multidirectional manners about strides in 5G and possible 6G capabilities. Surely, this topic will stay hot for some time.

That brings us to an update – further illuminating this influx of to-the-moment 5G/6G news – that literally broke the morning after my article was initially published:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced a new rulemaking design to explore 6G.

According to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, the time is now to start planning for 6G. In her latest FCC meeting agenda (available here), Rosenworcel outlined several steps that the FCC plans to take in preparation for how many describe 6G as “the new wireless standard.” Before leaders from government, industry and academia (as well as the National Science Foundation), Rosenworcel’s steps touched on radar-enabled tech and the ramping-up of spectrum for services from 6G to satellite.

“In addition to cutting-edge radar-enabled technology capable of facilitating advances in everything from augmented reality to drones and even healthcare monitoring,” she said, “we’re optimizing a massive swath of spectrum as we’ve studied how best to use more than 1 gigahertz (GHz) of mid-band spectrum from 12.2 GHz to 13.25 GHz.”

“We have also already identified the 7-16 GHz band as prime mid-band airwaves for the 6G era,” Rosenworcel continued. “That is why we have started an inquiry into making more spectrum available for new commercial mobile use.”

The airwaves Rosenworcel referenced are currently used for fixed wireless links, radio astronomy, aeronautical communications and location-based signals, but the most common usage in those bands includes services relates to satellites. So, the FCC – in efforts to explore 6G with realistic ambitions – will be looking at the possibility of a unified satellite and terrestrial standards framework to pave the way for secure, next-gen communications.

Per Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner, “With 6G, the FCC seems to be addressing the learnings from 5G’s spectrum challenges— that is, to identify early on mid-band spectrum that will provide enough capacity and coverage and hopefully align more closely with spectrum bands for 6G in other countries.”

That said, Rosenworcel closed remarks for now by urging Congress to restore the FCC’s spectrum auctioning authority, which lapsed on March 9 of this year. The restoration of this authority would clear the way for more efficient spectrum allocations.

At this rate, we’ll likely have more spectrum and 5G/6G updates sooner, rather than later. So goes the ebb and flow of this discussion as some see 5G’s well running dry, prompting an effective arrival of 6G and what that may entail.

Edited by Greg Tavarez
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