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FCC Adopts New Rules for Spectrum above 95 GHz in Branded “Spectrum Horizons” Initiative


The FCC has adopted new rules to encourage development of new communication technologies and expedite the deployment of new services above 95 GHz. The action was the latest move in the Commission’s “Spectrum Horizons” branded initiative.

“This spectrum has long been considered the outermost horizon of the usable spectrum range, but rapid advancements in radio technology have made these bands especially ripe for new development,” the FCC said in announcing the March 15 move. 

Prior to its “historic” decision last week, the FCC had no rules for authorizing communication above 95 GHz other than by radio amateurs or through experimental operations. Under current rules, specific Amateur Radio allocations exist at 122.25 – 123.00 GHz; 134 – 141 GHz; 241 – 250 GHz, and at frequencies above 300 GHz, and limited experimentation has taken place in this region of the radio spectrum. Among radio amateurs active in that region of the spectrum is Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, in Virginia — who has made at least one contact on every available Amateur Radio band. He earned the first-ever ARRL VUCC awards for 122 GHz, 134 GHz, and 241 GHz, and even went so far as to make the first contact on a less-than-1-millimeter band, 322 GHz. “Many world DX records were made as well along the way,” he said last spring. “The most rewarding one for me was 114 kilometers [about 71 miles] on 241 GHz.”

In announcing adoption of the new rules for spectrum above 95 GHz, the FCC cited “substantial opportunities for innovation on these frequencies, especially for data-intensive high-bandwidth applications as well as imaging and sensing operations.” 

The new rules create a new category of experimental licenses for using frequencies between 95 GHz and 3 THz. “These licenses will give innovators the flexibility to conduct experiments lasting up to 10 years, and to more easily market equipment during the experimental period,” the FCC said. The FCC action also makes a total of 21.2 gigahertz of spectrum available for use by unlicensed devices. The Commission says it selected “bands with propagation characteristics that will permit large numbers of unlicensed devices to use the spectrum, while limiting the potential for interference to existing governmental and scientific operations in the above-95 GHz bands, such as space research and atmospheric sensing.”

The FCC said study of these uses could ultimately lead to further rulemaking actions and additional licensing opportunities within the Spectrum Horizons bands. 

At the invitation of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, well-known academic researcher, entrepreneur, contester, and DXer Theodore “Ted” Rappaport, N9NB, delivered remarks prior to the Spectrum Horizons vote. The docket for the proceeding, ET Docket No. 18-21, incorporates the terminated 2013 Petition for Rule Making RM-11795, submitted by James Whedbee, N0ECN, of Missouri. Whedbee has asked the Commission to create rules for the operation of intentional radiators in the band 95 – 1,000 GHz under Part 15.    



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