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Rosenworcel Calls on FCC to Rethink 5.9 and 2.5 GHz Bands

She wants to maximize spectrum use to promote next-gen Wi-Fi, eliminate the Homework Gap

BOULDER, Colo. — FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel addressed the issue of spectrum management during a speech at this week’s Silicon Flatirons conference in Colorado.

The Democratic commissioner called on the commission to rethink how the 5.9 and 2.5 GHz bands are utilized in order to maximize the potential of these spectrum ranges, calling them “two specific bands where I believe we can do better.”

First, Rosenworcel suggests that the commission repurpose 7.5 MHz in the 5.9 GHz band (designated in 1999 for dedicated short range communications to warn drivers to take corrective action) because, she says, “autonomous vehicles have moved beyond DSRC to get around and communicate.”

Instead, Rosenworcel proposes the spectrum be used to “explore Wi-Fi expansion because it’s adjacent to an existing unlicensed band,” as part of the Congressional request to “100 MHz of spectrum below 8 GHz for unlicensed use” to keep up with the increased demand from the projected “50 billion new devices connecting to our networks” expected to be online by 2020.

She noted that a 2013 rulemaking began to study the band for its Wi-Fi opportunities; and then in 2016 developed plan “to determine the feasibility of DSRC and Wi-Fi sharing” in conjunction with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Transportation. Instead, Rosenworcel said the plan should be modernized to reflect “newer solutions that would instead segment the band” rather than co-channel sharing. If this is the case, she says, the US could “introduce new wideband channels… where we can develop next generation Gigabit Wi-Fi.”

Rosenworcel’s second suggestion is to reconsider the 2.5 GHz band, home of the Educational Broadband Service, formerly known as the Instructional Fixed Television Service. She says this band has not lived up to its potential, and should be creatively used to address the Homework Gap because “these airwaves are considered to have the choice mix of propagation and capacity that are essential for widespread 5G deployment”

She suggests the FCC auction unused 2.5 GHz licenses, providing “flexible commercial use of key mid-band airwaves important to 5G service” and then use proceeds to “help fund the connectivity needs of 12 million students who lack broadband at home.” Rosenworcel says this is a way to be innovative while also honoring “the educational history of this band.”

Read the text of Rosenworcel’s full speech online here.