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AI 'Overhyped'

FCC Technology Advisory Council Starts Back to Work With Focus on 6G

The FCC’s newly reconstituted Technology Advisory Council met for the first time Monday, with a new focus on 6G, directed by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. New TAC Chairman Dean Brenner, a former Qualcomm executive, said TAC’s work is more important than ever due to the reliance on broadband since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago. The first meeting was initially expected in October (see 2107230039).

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TAC is considered among the most important of FCC advisory committees and was once chaired by Tom Wheeler, before he became FCC chairman. Brenner replaced technologist Dennis Roberson, who had taken over from Wheeler.

The continuing need for more spectrum, the vulnerability of supply chains and the changing dynamics of global standards development require TAC attention, Brenner said at the opening of the meeting. “We know from prior generations of experience in wireless technology that leadership in technology must also extend to leadership in apps, services, infrastructure, chipsets, devices, standards and so much more,” Brenner said: “If we lead in 6G technology we will lead in all those other important aspects of 6G as well.”

Brenner said some ask whether it’s too early to focus on 6G, with 5G just starting to deploy more broadly. Rosenworcel is right -- the time to look at 6G is now, he said. “As a country, we cannot rest on our laurels,” he said: “The world is not waiting for us to wake up and begin working on 6G. … The FCC needs our best input now, while 6G is on the whiteboard, not later when it will be too late.” With work just getting started, leaders of the four working groups laid out what they will look at, based on direction from the FCC.

The Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning WG is asking whether AI is “overhyped,” said Co-chair Lisa Guess, Ericsson senior vice president-global sales engineering. “Yes and no,” she said. AI is “a big space,” Guess said: “There’s a big dependency on infrastructure, but you have to get results from it, and it is taking longer than people expected.” AI, on some levels, has been around for decades, she said. “It’s really starting to speed up, and we’re starting to see fruition, particularly in our industry,” she said.

The WG hopes AI will be part of the FCC’s strategic plan, Guess said. The group plans to focus on the impact over the next two-to-five years, “not looking way out in the future, looking closer in, and examining the maturity, looking at the variety of use cases,” she said. Brenner said he's seeing increased focus on AI at the Mobile World Congress, taking place this week in Barcelona.

The Advanced Spectrum Sharing WG sees three primary models for sharing -- the TV white spaces, the three-tier model in the citizens broadband radio service band and 6 GHz, with its use of automated frequency control, said co-Chair Andrew Clegg, representing the Wireless Innovation Forum. “Those of us who have been involved in multiple of these are starting to see common threads in the way things evolve and are addressed,” he said: “There would be value in creating a set of best practices based upon experience so far. … We would base those recommendations on the common threads and what we have learned in those that have been deployed so far.”

One recurring question is how to handle indoor devices, whether it’s possible to ensure they’re not used outside and whether they should be treated differently if they’re near a window, Clegg said. Another question is how to address aggregate interference, he said. Industry needs better propagation models, he said: While protecting incumbents “they also sort of are a floor on how efficiently the spectrum can be shared. If you use overly conservative propagation models you probably are leaving a lot of spectrum on the floor as far as sharing goes.”

Emerging Technologies WG co-Chair Henning Schulzrinne, Columbia University professor and former FCC chief technology officer, said the group has overlaps with other TAC work. All the technologies examined are going to affect “a variety of high-level commission objectives,” he said: “Some of these optical technologies may make it easier to build out broadband in rural areas, thus, furthering the digital inclusion objectives, and small-satellite or IoT networks may improve network resiliency. Others may add additional means of delivering key services, providing competition.”

We’re not a National Science Foundation panel here to foster research,” Schulzrinne said. The technologies should “foster new network deployment by reducing or increasing risk,” he said: They should reduce the cost of operating networks “in either human labor or increasingly importantly, energy,” he said: The technologies “should further the resiliency of networks, increase their performance, make it easier to restore such networks, increase their security and trustworthiness and better enable specialized applications.”

TAC also heard from its 6G WG. The council will next meet in June, possibly in person.