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FCC frees up spectrum for mobile backhaul


At its monthly meeting yesterday, the FCC issued an order making additional spectrum available for wireless backhaul—a move that should help reduce backhaul costs and make it easier to deploy wireless backhaul in rural areas. Additionally the commission issued a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on additional proposals for making microwave communications more flexible and cost-effective in rural areas.

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“By freeing up spectrum for backhaul in rural areas, we’re enabling service providers to extend broadband services more efficiently to rural and underserved communities and to improve broadband speeds where service already exists,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement. “We’re helping rural economies and rural consumers.”

The order
The order adopted yesterday permits fixed microwave links to operate in several bands below 13 GHz that were previously reserved for Fixed and Mobile Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) and Cable TV Relay Service (CARS). The move frees up as much as 650 MHz in additional spectrum for wireless backhaul use.

The order also lets microwave licensees use “adaptive modulation”—a technique that allows the minimum payload capacity to fall below a specified threshold in certain circumstances, with the goal of helping to maintain communications during fading. (CP: FCC proceeding could boost rural microwave backhaul).

That move, Genachowski said, should help “maintain the reliability of critical links” and “can help make the difference in ensuring that emergency communications including 9-1-1 calls are maintained in severe weather.”

The order also eliminates the “final link” rule, which prohibited broadcasters from using certain microwave frequencies as the final radio frequency link in the chain of programming distribution.

As for the broadcasters to whom the microwave spectrum was previously assigned, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said, “Today we take appropriate and reasonable steps to make sure these services co-exist. For example, we reserve two nationwide channels for BAS and CARS to accommodate TV pickup stations covering events that occur outside their license areas.”


The NPRM issued yesterday proposes to allow smaller antennas in certain microwave bands, which could make microwave communications more cost-effective. Additionally it proposes exempting licensees in non-congested areas from FCC efficiency standards, which could also help make microwave more cost-effective in rural areas.


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