Today I had the opportunity to testify in front of the Senate Commerce Committee about the MOBILE NOW Act, legislation that has revolutionized spectrum policy.
As lawmakers look towards the future, I asked them to join me looking back; let’s think back to 2003.
In 2003, we didn’t have Smart TVs; they were still dumb. We didn’t have thin notebook computers; they were still six to seven years in the future. We didn’t have Kindles. Nintendo Wii was 3 years away. And in 2003, we still had to wait 4 years for the iPhone.
Today, we’re running all these devices and countless more on the same spectrum allocation using generations of innovation in every home and workplace in America. And we’re doing this because there’s been no new spectrum for Wi-Fi since 2003.
Today, as we look to 2020 and beyond, the unlicensed industry and the future of Wi-Fi are at a pivotal moment.
First – there is no dispute – demand continues to rise. Given the plethora of smart home appliances, connected devices at work and in schools, the increasing use of smartphones, and the growing use of Wi-Fi in sectors throughout our economy, the unlicensed industry has been desperate for more spectrum.
Second, our newest technology – much more spectrally efficient than in the past – is requiring new spectrum to support wider radio channels.
These realities sparked an evaluation that led the industry to take a hard look at the 6 GHz band.
At 6 GHz, unlicensed use is highly complementary to incumbent microwave links. Microwaves are elevated on tall buildings, towers, or ridges, are high-power, highly directional, and outdoors. Unlicensed devices are mostly indoor, near the ground, and low power.
The FCC agreed that sharing this band seemed promising, recognizing that the microwave systems in 6 GHz support critical infrastructure and public safety, in addition to telecommunications and mobile activities of broadcasters.
FCC Chairman Pai said it best. “We’re aiming to have the best of both worlds: protect today’s incumbent users of the band while turbocharging the Wi-Fi networks and applications of the future.”
The unlicensed industry therefore responsibly proposed a set of technical restrictions to do just that. We proposed three classes of devices, each subject to its own unique set of technical rules. We then studied how these devices would operate in 6 GHz using a variety of tools and techniques in common use by the engineering community. Of course, incumbents and the FCC staff are examining this exact question in parallel with us.
Based on the FCC record, Cisco – and the unlicensed community – remain optimistic that there is a way to fulfill Chairman Pai’s vision for 6 GHz – protecting incumbents while allowing robust unlicensed use. We look forward to continued conversations with the FCC to achieve this goal.