FCC adopts rules to open up high-band spectrum for 5G wireless

Opening up spectrum above 24GHz is a "game-changer" that will bring fiber-like capacity to wireless users, the FCC chairman said.

Seeking to establish the US as a leader in 5G technologies, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday approved new rules that open up high frequency for next-generation wireless services.

The vote makes the US the first country in the world to make frequencies above 24GHz available for 5G. In a statement, FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler called that a "game-changer", noting that the commission is opening up spectrum that's much higher than was previously considered viable for flexible uses, including mobile.

Also, tapping high-band spectrum allows the commission to open up much bigger chunks. Current blocks of licensed, low-band spectrum are typically 5MHz to 10MHz in width, but the commission is now looking at blocks of at least 200MHz in width for 5G. That would allow networks to carry more traffic per user. "We're talking about fiber-like capacity to wireless users," Wheeler said in his statement.

Next-generation connectivity, he said, promises "quantum leaps forward" in speed, responsiveness, and network capacity. Combining that with the processing power of the cloud will enable smart cities, super-fast wireless, and "unknowable" innovations.

"In a 5G world, the Internet of Everything will be fully realized," Wheeler said. "Everything that can be connected will be connected. Most important, 5G will enable killer applications yet to be imagined."

Already, telecoms, along with companies like Intel and Facebook, have led the push toward 5G. Wheeler noted that the first commercial deployments at scale are expected by 2020.

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