The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said on Friday it is looking into whether radio frequencies above 24GHz hold potential for future mobile services. The move backs up recent comments made by FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to Mobile World Live on the same subject.
The regulator said Friday it has taken note of how industry and technical groups have started to check into the possibilities of higher frequencies, sometimes known as millimeter wave bands.
Looking at these higher bands takes place “within the context of broader efforts to develop technical standards for so-called Fifth Generation (5G) mobile services”, the FCC said in a statement, although it is at pains to deny it is in the standards-making business itself.
The regulator has opened a so-called Notice of Inquiry and is encouraging comments from industry, as it looks to pick out those the most promising frequencies as well as decide on what rules and licensing should apply.
The deadline for comments is 16 December, with a further month until 15 January for feedback on the comments.
As the commission said, the mobile industry is already moving on millimeter wave bands. Just last week, Samsung announced that it will launch consumer devices and telecoms equipment using Wi-Fi in the 60GHz frequency band as soon as next year. The FCC document also notes high-band work done by Intel and Nokia, among others.
The commission added that the current process is not a substitute for efforts to free up additional lower frequency spectrum for mobile services but should be viewed as complementary.
Until recently, says the commission document, offering mobile services above 24GHz was not realistic because radio waves at those frequencies travel in straight lines and hence could only provide line-of-sight service. However, leading vendors are starting to find ways to provide non-light-of-sight services with increased range, it said.
However, bands over 24GHz are not currently considered for standalone services but as supplementary channels to deliver high data rates in specific places, as part of a wider service package that also include lower bands.