Keeping our Finger on the Pulse of Regulation

By    August 1, 2014

For health, safety and economic concerns, wireless communication is one of the most regulated industries in the world.  Virtually every country in the world has at least one regulatory body responsible for wireless communication. Some have multiple agencies to ensure an adequate level of bureaucracy. Sound hopeless? Well if the recent FCC website crash sparked by John Oliver’s net neutrality rant on “Last Week Tonight” is any indication, the natives are restless. 

Effective regulatory management drives innovation, improvement in a society’s standard of living, and fuels the country’s economic engine. The FCC’s regulatory efforts led to the national deployment of 911, and before that the public-switched telephone network, deferentially referred to as POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service).  Today, the FCC’s and other regulatory bodies’ purview includes rural broadband access, net neutrality, ensuring broadband access by educational institutions, and accelerating 4G services – all challenging topics that require balanced perspective.

Ineffective regulatory management results in loss of innovation, poor utilization of precious RF resources, poor or non-existent telecommunication services, and ultimately slows gross domestic product growth. The challenge for regulators is meeting the needs of government, network operators, business and citizens, by enabling technically and economically viable solutions from industry through their regulatory requirements.

Additional 100 MHz Available for Fixed Wireless Broadband

This past week, alignment was achieved between the FCC, Cambium Networks, and network operators with the PTP 650 and ePMP™ achieving approval from the FCC to operate in 5150-5250 MHz, that comply with the new rules for U-NII devices adopted under Docket No. 13-49. The industry, including Cambium Networks, the Wireless Internet Service Provider Association (WISPA), and network operators; actively participated in the FCC’s formal process in suggesting, refining and ultimately finalizing the revised rules.  The regulation opened up additional spectrum with specific rules and manufacturers are bringing forward solutions to take advantage of the spectrum allocation, and network operators can advance new and enhanced communication solutions to their customers – all good.

Notice Concerning Future Use of 5.725 – 5.85 GHz

On the other hand, an element of Docket No. 13-49, the Revision of Part 15 of the Commission’s Rules to Permit Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) Devices in the 5 GHz Band, will in Cambium Networks’ opinion severely burden network deployments of longer-range wireless links for services such as broadband access and backhaul. The rule change imposes significant new costs on manufacturers of such devices to comply with the new standard. In those rural areas where fixed wireless architecture is the only viable access solution, the rule change would make broadband deployment effectively impossible. Cambium Networks and other affected and engaged parties have petitioned for reconsideration and or formally affirmed the petitioner’s position. The FCC has recently published its Public Notice starting the clock on public responses to the submitted Petitions for Reconsiderations; offering the public an additional opportunity to react to the FCC’s revised rules – more to follow on that topic.

Citizens Broadband Radio Service 3550 – 3650: Potential for More Spectrum

Continuing on its path to drive effective utilization of precious RF resources, the FCC recently adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) in GN Docket No. 12-354 seeking comment on proposed rules for a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service in the 3550-3650 MHz band.  The proposed rulemaking includes provisions to open up additional spectrum in two principal manners that Cambium Networks believes is in general beneficial to the intended user base; albeit not without technical challenges and limitations that must be carefully considered by all parties.

So while recognizing that regulators have a complex job, it’s up to all constituents – network operators, manufacturers, and the general public – to engage, study and seek to influence the regulator’s directives. Only then can everyone’s best interests be considered and reflected in regulatory decisions.