FCC Revises Rules for Unlicensed Wideband Devices; Affirms Rules for Ultra-Wideband Devices
On Wednesday, the FCC adopted an Order that is intended to permit the introduction of new, unlicensed wireless devices by amending Part 15 of its rules, which governs radio frequency (“RF”) devices. The Commission amended its Part 15 rules pertaining to unlicensed wireless devices that use wide bandwidths, but are not classified as “ultra-wideband” (“UWB”) devices (discussed below). Specifically, the Commission increased the peak power limits for three frequency bands that already were available for unlicensed operation: 6 GHz, 17 GHz and 24 GHz. The Commission indicated that such devices could be used for a variety of applications, including vehicular radar systems for collision avoidance, tracking systems for personnel location, and inventory control and tracking systems.
The Commission also affirmed its rules pertaining to UWB devices, which it adopted in 2002 and permit the marketing and operation of certain types of products incorporating UWB technology. UWB technology employs short bursts of RF energy over a very large bandwidth to convey information. One particular application is indoor wireless communications systems that permit short-range high-speed data transmissions. The Commission had received several requests to amend its UWB rules. In the Order, the Commission declined to make any significant changes to its UWB rules, indicating that changes were unnecessary in light of its rule changes for wideband devices, and because changes to the UWB rules “could be disruptive to current industry product development efforts.”
NCTA and a group of program networks and satellite service providers had presented the Commission with technical studies showing that, as UWB devices proliferate, there was a risk that the cumulative effect of UWB emissions could interfere with, or degrade the quality of, C-band (4 GHz) satellite transmissions, which are widely used to distribute programming to cable headends. As a result, NCTA and the C-band users had asked the Commission to amend its UWB rules to reduce the peak power limits for devices that operate in the 4 GHz band. The Commission declined, stating that it doubted the assumptions of the technical analysis because: (1) it anticipates that more than 95 percent of the UWB devices will operate indoors where their emissions will be attenuated by the building structure; (2) UWB devices that operate outdoors are limited to hand-held devices with short-range operations; and (3) it disagreed with the density levels of the UWB devices assumed in the study. The Commission stated that it would “continue to monitor the situation” and “take whatever appropriate action is necessary to ensure that UWB operation does not result in harmful interference” with C-band transmissions, including investigations of interference complaints and, if necessary, enforcement actions.