The FCC recently revised its rules governing operations in the 70/80/90 GHz band to allow for more intensive use of these bands, including allowing services to endpoints in motion. With certain exceptions, the rules adopted in the Report and Order (R&O) in WT Docket No. 20-133 will become effective 30 days from the date of publication of the R&O in the Federal Register.
Antenna Standards. The new rules will allow more intensive use of the 70 GHz and 80 GHz bands, including use for backhaul for 5G service, by permitting the use of smaller, lower-cost antennas. In particular, the new rules raise the maximum beamwidth to 2.2°, reduce the minimum antenna gain from 43 dBi to 38 dBi for antennas, remove the co-polar discrimination requirement at angles below 5°, and modify the cross-polar discrimination requirements for angles below 5° to 21 dB.
Channel Plan. The FCC adopted a channel plan for the 70 GHz and 80 GHz bands, consistent with ITU Recommendation ITU-R F.2006. The channel plan will take effect on September 1, 2024, to provide lead time for manufacturers to modify equipment to comply with the new plan. Licensees registered before September 1, 2024, may continue to operate under nonconforming channel plans so long as their pre-existing operations are in good standing.
Certification of Link Construction and Operation. 70/80/90 GHz licensees must certify that each link is constructed and operating within 12 months of successful registration in a third-party database manager link registration system (LRS). The 12-month construction period will commence on the date of each registration of each individual link. Licensees will have 15 days after the 12-month construction deadline for each link to certify in the LRS that the link was timely constructed and operating. If a licensee does not make the certification, the link will be deemed unconstructed and authority to operate that link terminated automatically as of the 12-month construction deadline.
After the effective date of the certification requirement (which is subject to OMB approval, and thus not yet determined), the rule will apply to all uncertified links even if the 12-month construction deadline date occurred prior to the effective date. Once the certification requirement is effective, LRS managers must remove uncertified registrations from the LRS.
The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau will consult the LRS managers on the timing of LRS modifications to accommodate the new rules. WTB will issue a Public Notice providing the details for implementing the certification requirement.
Modifications to Registrations. The new rules allow modifications to registrations, without losing first-in-time status (referred to as “de minimis modification”), solely for the purpose of repairing or replacing installed and operating equipment, provided that there are no changes to any registered technical parameters that would change the potential for a link to cause or receive interference. To qualify as de minimis, a modification must meet all criteria in the revised rules.
Point-to-Point Communications to Endpoints in Motion. The new rules allow for point-to-point links to endpoints in motion on aircraft and on ships in the 70 GHz and 80 GHz bands. The new service, which the FCC classifies as a mobile service, covers: (1) in the aeronautical space, ground-to-air and air-to-ground transmissions between ground stations and aircraft, and air-to-air transmission between aircraft in flight; and (2) in the maritime space, ship-to-shore, shore-to-ship, shore-to-aerostat, aerostat-to-ship, and aerostat-to-shore transmissions.
Prospective operators of service to aeronautical and maritime endpoints in motion must first apply for and receive a nationwide, non-exclusive license, which will serve as a blanket license for operations and as a prerequisite to register permitted transmissions.
Aeronautical and maritime operators, after receiving a nationwide license, must register stations with the LRS, and coordinate with and protect existing operators and transmissions pursuant to the new rules. WTB will establish specific procedures for coordinating and registering aeronautical and maritime stations and transmissions.
Further NPRM. In a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM), the FCC asks for comment on whether to permit ship-to-aerostat transmissions as part of the newly authorized maritime service, and whether to include FSS earth stations in the third-party registration systems. The FCC proposes to require registrations for new FS links submitted on or after January 26, 2024, to demonstrate protection of FSS earth stations with a final authorization prior to the submission date of the new FS registration. Comments and reply comments on the issues raised in the FNPRM will be due 30 days and 60 days, respectively, after publication in the Federal Register.