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FCC begins research into 5G future in the US

Tom Wheeler wants to begin investigating frequencies for possible 5G use.
October 1, 2014

We have previously written about how certain groups and companies are supposedly gearing up for 5G technology. Some companies are actually stating that they are offering 5G speeds now, some are calling any definition of 5G “absurd” and others are promising 5G technology by 2020.

Now, GigaOM is alerting us to a blog post that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote in which he asks fellow commissioners to begin investigating frequencies in the 24 GHz and higher bands for possible 5G use.

Specifically, Wheeler is referencing millimeter waves, which 5G researches believe is the final access link between a tower and device and could therefore unlock wireless speeds in the 1Gbps range. Today, millimeter waves are generally used for wireless backhaul.

There’s a lot of spectrum up there for the taking, but the problem is range. At the lower power levels needed for mobile communications, those waves just don’t propagate that far…….The idea is to use massive antenna arrays and beam shaping techniques to send a boatload of parallel low-power signals to a receiver. Those low-power signals would reinforce one another, greatly increasing the distance they could travel while preserving their data fidelity. – GigaOM

In fact, wireless carriers in the US are using some of this technology today:

  • T-Mobile US has put up four-antenna systems on its LTE towers,
  • Sprint is installing eight-antenna rigs in its new Spark network.
  • Nokia and Samsung and others are putting on many more multiples of antennas as they move up frequency charts.

In the blog post, Wheeler wrote that the inquiry is simply aimed at broadening the FCC’s “understanding of the state of the art in technological developments that will enable the use of millimeter wave spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile wireless services.”