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FCC Releases High-Frequency Spectrum for 5G Technologies; Small Cell Siting Issues May Result in Further Federal Preemption

In an open meeting today, the FCC Commissioners announced the adoption of new rules for wireless broadband operations in frequencies above 24 GHz.  These new rules open up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum for flexible, mobile and fixed use wireless broadband – 3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum. The rules adopted today creates a new Upper Microwave Flexible Use service in the 28 GHz (27.5-28.35 GHz), 37 GHz (37-38.6 GHz), and 39 GHz (38.6-40 GHz) bands, and a new unlicensed band at 64-71 GHz.

While the release of this spectrum is undoubtedly welcome news for companies that plan to deploy 5G technologies and services, as well as the Internet of Things (IoT) industry as a whole, certain issues remain regarding implementation.  For instance, due to the propagation characteristics of high-frequency spectrum, dense and widespread installation of small cells is necessary for successful deployment of 5G services.  Local government regulations can, and have, severely hindered the placement of small cells.  

The Commissioners discussed the small cell siting issue and agreed that action needs to be taken to ensure the rapid deployment of small cells.  This could result in further federal preemption of local siting rules, beyond the current regulations the FCC adopted in 2014.  Those regulations, which implemented Section 6409(a) of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 require state and local governments to approve any “eligible facilities request” for modification of an existing tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimension of same.        

The CommLaw Group is following this proceeding closely, and will provide further information when the Report and Order adopting the new rules is released.

If you would like additional Information about this proceeding or other matters pertaining to the spectrum allocation or the siting of small cell or other radiofrequency equipment, please contact IoT Attorney Ronald E. Quirk, Jr. at (703) 714-1305 or req@commlawgroup.com.

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