News Feature | January 5, 2021

The Week in 5G: 1/5/2021 — FCC Considers 12 GHz Band For 5G; 5G Advocates Target Spoken-For 6 GHz Spectrum

By Ed Biller


Outgoing FCC Chair Ajit Pai has circulated a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that, if adopted, would solicit input on whether to allow “terrestrial flexible use (including mobile services) in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band (the 12 GHz band)” currently used for satellite services. 

Per Telecompetitor, 500 MHz of spectrum in this band, called the MVDDS spectrum, could be up for grabs in a spectrum auction, though satellite services have pushed back against the band’s reallocation. The NPRM seeks “input on possible methods for assigning new flexible use rights while protecting incumbent users, and also on whether the costs of accommodating new services in the band would exceed the benefits.”

Still, mid-band spectrum is expected to drive 5G network rollouts. That sentiment is reflected in bidding during the FCC’s ongoing C-band auction, which attracted 57 potential bidders and has exceeded $75 billion. Per Bloomberg, the previous highest-earning FCC auction drew nearly $45 billion in bids in 2015.

The spirited bidding “could send carriers like Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. to the debt market to finance” their spectrum purchases because “the airwaves are expected to drive a years-long surge of profits when deployed for next-generation mobile devices, autonomous vehicles, health-care equipment and manufacturing facilities,” reports Bloomberg.

Related, in late December, “a group of 23 operators and cellular infrastructure providers, cheer-led by the GSMA, made what amounts to a power-grab for the crucial 5925 MHz to 7125 MHz portion of the 6GHz spectrum,” reports EE Times. The 5G advocates seemingly are looking to reverse – or at least delay – policy decisions granting Wi-Fi principal use of the 6 GHz spectrum in both the U.S. and the EU.

In the U.S., the FCC already has proposed draft rules that would allocate parts of the 6GHz spectrum to Wi-Fi use, while the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) has allocated the lower segment of the 6 GHz spectrum (between 5925 MHz and 6425 MHz) “for licence-exempt Wi-Fi… from late 2021,” reports EE Times, whose report adds that Brazil, Argentina, and some other Latin American countries “have already started consultations about the use of 6 GHz for Wi-Fi.”

Wading into the realm of 5G conspiracy theories, numerous outlets have reported the tale of an Italian Twitter who exposed last week that a diagram circulating online -- alleged to be a “5G chip” that will piggyback into people’s bodies on the COVID-19 vaccine – actually depicts a guitar pedal (used to alter the sound of a guitar running through an amplifier – in this case, the Boss Metal Zone MT-2 guitar pedal).

In more somber news, 5G conspiracy theories appear to have been one of the motivations behind a Christmas day suicide bombing in Nashville. Per Business Insider, Anthony Quinn Warner, who the FBI says was responsible for the bombing, may have believed 5G was responsible for his father's death, leading him to target an AT&T building in Nashville “as a means of striking against telecommunications giants.”

Warner was inside the vehicle rigged to explode and is believed to be the event’s only fatality. BI reports the blast injured three other people and damaged 41 buildings.