Groups Ask FCC to Pause Certifications of Commercial 6 GHz Devices
Monday, February 01, 2021 | Comments

A coalition of public-safety and critical infrastructure organizations sent a letter to the FCC asking the commission to pause any certifications for commercial devices to be used on 6 GHz spectrum.

The groups urged the FCC to pause any approvals for the new equipment until it performs rigorous testing to ensure that the existence of the devices will not cause harmful interreference to incumbent fixed microwave links used by public safety and critical infrastructure agencies.

Last year, the FCC approved new rules that allowed unlicensed use of the 6 GHz band. Those new rules allowed two types of unlicensed devices in the band. Standard power devices are governed by automatic frequency coordination (AFC) technology that is intended to prevent interference to incumbent users. Meanwhile, low-power devices are not subject to AFC coordination but under the rules are only allowed indoors.

In court briefings and FCC filings asking for reconsideration of the rules, public-safety and critical infrastructure organizations expressed concern about low-power indoor devices (LPIs) arguing that the FCC won’t be able to ensure that they will only be used indoors and that tracking interference from so many unlicensed devices will be very difficult.

In a massive appropriations and coronavirus relief bill approved at the end of last year, Congress also expressed concern about interference to critical links, specifically the country’s energy distribution infrastructure, and directed the FCC to do testing to ensure interference wouldn’t occur.

“Such action is necessary to satisfy Congress’s recent directive to the FCC to provide a report on progress towards ‘ensuring rigorous testing related to unlicensed use of the 6 GHz band’ and is the only prudent course given recent showings in the record that LPI devices pose a significant interference risk,” the groups’ letter to FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said.

Under the appropriations act, the FCC is required to submit a report on the efforts it’s taking to ensure the testing by March 27. The groups noted that they have tried to work with LPI device manufacturers on testing and ensuring the devices don’t cause interference but have so far been rebuffed.

“LPI stakeholders have refused to participate in or even make LPI devices available for testing, but want the FCC to certify their devices nonetheless,” the letter said. “The 6 GHz report and order suggested that a multistakeholder group could ‘work cooperatively to develop and test devices to aid in the goal of developing processes for introducing and operating devices across the 6 GHz band,’ but 6 GHz incumbent requests for testing within the multistakeholder group have been rebuffed.”

The groups said that the FCC could begin its work toward satisfying Congress’ mandate by announcing that it will not approve any more LPI device certifications until rigorous testing has occurred.

“Absent such testing, the commission is unable ‘to ensure its plan does not result in harmful interference to incumbent users,’ and absent such assurance, it should not be granting 6 GHz LPI device certifications,” the letter said.

Additionally, the groups said, the FCC should use its authority to obtain samples of any devices manufacturers seek to get certified, similar to the approach that the FCC used for LTE-U.

“Further testing under real-world conditions using actual unlicensed devices is necessary before the commission and other stakeholders can be certain that interference will not occur,” the letter said. “These testing efforts could be managed through the multistakeholder group process or through another regime acceptable to the commission. The commission, either on its own or through the multistakeholder group, should complete its evaluation of the interference effects from unlicensed use of the 6 GHz band prior to further equipment certification.

Groups signing the letter were the Utility Technology Council (UTC), the American Gas Association, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, the American Petroleum Institute (API), American Public Power Association (APPA), American Water Works Association, Edison Electric Institute (EEI), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

The FCC certified the first 6 GHz device in December.

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