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'Broad Contours'

NTIA Chief Says Biden Administration Is Focused on 6G

The Biden administration is looking past 5G to 6G, said Evelyn Remaley, NTIA acting administrator, at the Americas Spectrum Management Conference Wednesday. She's “very optimistic” about opening the 3.1-3.45 GHz band for 5G and sees industry support for developing a national spectrum strategy. Others cited the importance of the C band and items that must be addressed after the record-setting auction.

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The broad contours” of a U.S. spectrum policy are unlikely to change as the world moves beyond 5G, Remaley said. “The U.S. supports opening up wide bandwidths of low-, mid- and high-band spectrum, and we are committed to exploring the use of advanced technology to enhance our use of spectrum in a smart way.”

6G may include bands in the terahertz range, Remaley said: “Researchers are looking at frequencies in this range that could more reliably detect materials than at lower frequencies.” Some believe the spectrum could be used to detect cancer, she said. U.S. companies will set “the baseline” for what 6G is and “what it will do,” and NTIA will provide support, she said.

NTIA is “very excited” about the possibility of incumbent informing capability (IIC) and smarter sharing, Remaley said. AI and machine-based learning could “allow us to do spectrum sharing more efficiently, more effectively,” she said. IIC could be used in many bands and NTIA would want all federal agencies to use the technology, she said. NTIA is hopeful Congress will fund an administration proposal for IIC development, which could take five years to finalize, she said. 6G will also require a competitive and secure equipment supply chain, she said. The launch of “open, interoperable networks is one promising opportunity to do just that,” she said: “While this will be industry-led, governments have a key role.”

Commercial deployment of 6G is unlikely before 2030, said AT&T's Brian Daly, Next G Alliance steering group co-chair. 6G will likely include terahertz spectrum that will enable throughputs 100x higher than 5G, he said. In telecom, these connections will likely provide “extreme traffic capacity and extreme data rates through very dense deployments,” he said.

The FCC needs to “lay to rest quickly” concerns raised by the aviation industry on potential interference to radio altimeters at 4.2-4.4 GHz (see 2109200041), said Jared Carlson, Ericsson vice president-government affairs, during a C-band discussion. Altimeters are “more than a gaping 200 MHz away” from the top of that, he said. C-band use globally “is not showing any observed effects on altimeters in the presence of significant wireless deployments,” he said. “International 5G deployments in several countries have been operating without interference to altimeters.” Ericsson forecasts that by 2026, 84% of North American mobile subscriptions will be 5G.

Verizon has “a huge interest in the success of the C-band transition,” said Rachael Bender, associate general counsel. The C-band licenses the provider bought mean a 120% increase in its sub-6 GHz spectrum holdings, “so that’s a big deal,” she said: “We think it will help us accelerate our 5G deployment.” Verizon plans to get 6,000-8,000 sites ready for the band in the next few months, she said.

Even though the auction is over and the wireless licenses have been granted and now Phase I is winding down, there’s still a lot of work to be done on all sides,” Bender said: “The space station operators need to launch new satellites next year and continue transitioning services. The earth station operators have to install final filters to complete their Phase II transition.”

It took “enormous effort” by satellite operators to make the band available, said Hogan Lovells’ Gerry Oberst. “This is a lesson for any transition of the substantial amount of spectrum that’s being used for a substantial amount of service,” he said. The spectrum really has been “the workhorse” band for the delivery of video, serving 100 million customers, he said. “This was not an insubstantial matter.”

Satellite companies “had to overcome a strong tradition of using the spectrum,” Oberst said: “It was a hard decision to take not to fight or stretch out the proceeding, and this is always going to be an issue for spectrum users with an installed base with substantial operations.” The companies had to work together since “one holdout could mess up the entire works,” he said. Technical standards had to be defined, he said. “Most important was how much spectrum to put on the table,” he said: “Too much and you couldn’t continue to serve the video market. Too little, and the long knives would come out asking for more.”