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Improved Access to Spectrum for Wireless Broadband Operations

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Released: May 17, 2013
Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554
‘ May 17, 2013

DA 13-1138

Small Entity Compliance Guide

Improved Access to Spectrum for Wireless Broadband Operations

in the 6875-6975 MHz, 7025-7125 MHz and 12700-13150 MHz Bands
FCC 12-87
WT Docket No. 10-153
Released: August 3, 2012

This Guide is prepared in accordance with the requirements of Section 212 of the
Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. It is intended to
help small entities—small businesses, small organizations (non-profits), and
small governmental jurisdictions—comply with the new rules adopted in the
above-referenced FCC rulemaking docket(s). This Guide is not intended to
replace the rules and, therefore, final authority rests solely with the rules.
Although we have attempted to cover all parts of the rules that might be
especially important to small entities, the coverage may not be exhaustive. This
Guide may, perhaps, not apply in a particular situation based upon the
circumstances, and the FCC retains the discretion to adopt approaches on a case-
by-case basis that may differ from this Guide, where appropriate. Any decisions
regarding a particular small entity will be based on the statute and regulations.

In any civil or administrative action against a small entity for a violation of
rules, the content of the Small Entity Compliance Guide may be considered as
evidence of the reasonableness or appropriateness of proposed fines, penalties or
damages. Interested parties are free to file comments regarding this Guide and
the appropriateness of its application to a particular situation; the FCC will
consider whether the recommendations or interpretations in the Guide are
appropriate in that situation. The FCC may decide to revise this Guide without
public notice to reflect changes in the FCC’s approach to implementing a rule,
or to clarify or update the text of the Guide. Direct your comments and
recommendations, or calls for further assistance, to the FCC’s Con sumer
Center:

1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322)

TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322)

Fax: 1-866-418-0232

fccinfo@fcc.gov

I.

OBJECTIVES OF THE PROCEEDING

The Commission launched this proceeding to remove regulatory barriers and lower costs for the wireless
microwave backhaul facilities that are important components of many mobile wireless networks.
Broadband is indispensable to the digital economy, and wireless technology is an increasingly important
source of broadband connectivity. Microwave backhaul facilities are often used to transmit data between
cell sites, or between cell sites and network backbones – a type of Fixed Service (FS) – and FS providers’
use of microwave links as an alternative to traditional copper circuits and fiber optic links has been
increasing. Microwave is a particularly important high-capacity backhaul solution in certain rural and
remote locations.
In the Second Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration (Backhaul Second R&O), the
Commission continued these efforts by increasing flexibility in the use of microwave services licensed
under its Part 101 rules. The steps the Commission took will remove regulatory barriers to make better
use of FS spectrum and provide additional flexibility to enable FS licensees to reduce operational costs
and facilitate the use of wireless backhaul in rural areas. By enabling more flexible and cost-effective
microwave services, the Commission is helping to accelerate deployment of 4G mobile broadband
infrastructure across America.

II.

TERMINOLOGY

Shown below are definitions of some of the terms that are used throughout this guide. Other
technical terms that appear only in specific discussions are defined before the paragraphs in which they
appear.
Backhaul -- in the context of this proceeding, telecommunications channels between cellular
communication base stations or between cellular base stations and landline network backbones.
Fixed Service (FS) -- radio communication between specified fixed points, typically but not always using
directed beams.
Bit -- a unit of computer information equivalent to the result of a choice between two alternatives (as yes
or no, on or off). Combinations of bits can represent alphanumeric characters or images.
Megabit (Mbit) – one million bits of information.
Gigabit (Gbit) – one billion bits of information.
Microwave – an electromagnetic wave that is between about one millimeter and one meter long.
Hertz – one cycle per second of a radio wave. The frequency of a radio signal is usually represented in
Hertz or multiples thereof, such as megahertz (MHz), which means millions of Hertz, or gigahertz (GHz),
which means billions of Hertz.
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III.

REGULATIONS AND POLICIES THAT THE COMMISSION ADOPTED OR
MODIFIED, INCLUDING COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS

The Commission revised its rules to allow smaller antennas in certain frequency bands, updated
rules that specify minimum data transmission rates, authorized Commission staff to issue waivers
facilitating increased path links in rural areas, allowed wider channels in certain frequency bands, and
limited the circumstances under which FS license applicants are required to coordinate with satellite
operators. The Commission also affirmed rules and policies adopted in an earlier phase of this
proceeding. Specific aspects of those decisions are summarized below.
In general, the Backhaul Second R&O allows FS operators to use smaller antennas in the 6, 18
and 23 GHz bands. Allowing smaller antennas reduces the costs of equipment, tower space rentals and
maintenance by reducing antenna size, weight and wind resistance. The revised antenna rules appear as
revisions to the table of technical requirements in Rule 101.115(b)(2), which is codified at 47 C.F.R.
Section 101.115(b)(2). Previously, the Commission had two sets of antenna standards for FS operators:
Category A, which required tightly focused beams for congested areas, and Category B, which allowed
less tightly focused beamwidths and, by implication, smaller antennas in uncongested areas. The
Commission’s rules required a Category B user to upgrade to Category A if its antenna caused
interference problems that would be resolved by the use of a Category A antenna. The Backhaul Second
R&O
established a third category for the 6, 18, and 23 GHz bands, called Category B2, and redesignated
the existing Category B standard as Category B1. In the 6, 18 and 23 GHz bands, licensees may now use
either Category B1 or Category B2 antennas to comply with the threshold antenna standards for FS
operations. The performance parameters for new Category B2 and re-labeled parameters for Category B1
are shown in the table of technical requirements mentioned above, in Rule 101.115(b)(2). This
bifurcation of Category B into Categories B1 and B2 applies only to the 6, 18 and 23 GHz bands. For
other bands, the Commission will continue to classify antennas as Category A or Category B.
The Commission also updated its FS efficiency standards by eliminating standards based on a
hierarchy of voice circuits used by telephone companies, replacing them with simplified efficiency
standards defined in bits-per-second-per-Hertz. The following terms are used in this paragraph:
Payload – number of data bits per second that an FS link carries.
Traffic loading – the percentage of an FS link’s payload capacity that is being used.
Efficiency – an FS link’s payload capacity and traffic loading.
The Commission’s new payload capacity standards require that, for FS links operating on frequencies
between 3,700 MHz and 13,250 MHz, those using less than or equal to 5 megahertz of bandwidth must be
capable of conveying at least 2.4 bits per second per Hertz of bandwidth, and those using between 5 and
20 megahertz of bandwidth must be capable of conveying at least 4.4 bits per second per Hertz of
bandwidth. For FS links using more than 20 megahertz of bandwidth, those operating on frequencies
between 3,700 and 10,550 MHz must be capable of conveying at least 4.4 bits per second per Hertz, and
those operating on frequencies between 10,550 and 13,250 MHz must be capable of conveying at least
3.0 bits per second per Hertz. The Commission did not change its payload capacity requirements for
higher frequencies because they were already specified in bits-per-second-per-Hertz. All of these
modulation requirements appear in Section 101.141 of the Commission’s Rules, which is codified at 47
C.F.R. Section 101.141.
3

The Commission also directed its Wireless Telecommunications Bureau to give favorable
consideration to waiver applicants seeking permission to reduce their data transmission rates in
uncongested rural areas, thereby enabling many of those applicants to double their microwave path
lengths and eliminate the need for intermediate relay stations. The new waiver policy applies to all FS
applicants that are subject to minimum transmission rate requirements, i.e., those proposing to use digital
modulation techniques on frequencies below 25.25 GHz. The Commission noted that this could save
applicants as much as $500,000 per link and make it economically feasible to provide affordable
microwave connections to places where broadband communication was previously available only by
satellite. Favorable consideration of these waiver requests will be available where the interference
environment allows the applicant to use a less stringent Category B, B1 or B2 antenna as contrasted with
the higher performance Category A antennas required in congested areas, and where each end of the
proposed microwave link is located in a county with a population density of 100 persons per square mile
or less. The applicant must also avoid locating in a recognized antenna farm and must acknowledge its
duty to upgrade to a Category A antenna if necessary to resolve an interference conflict with a proposed
microwave link in the future, and, if that happens, to comply with the Section 101.141 efficiency
requirements.
The Commission expanded the maximum bandwidths allowed in the Lower 6 GHz band from 30
to 60 megahertz, and in the 11 GHz band from 40 to 80 megahertz. In this context, the Lower 6 GHz
band refers to frequencies between 5925 and 6425 MHz, and the 11 GHz band includes frequencies
between 10,700 and 11,700 megahertz. Allowing wider bandwidths enables licensees to transmit at faster
data rates.
Finally, the Commission modified its rules to require FS operators pointing microwave beams in
the direction of geostationary communication satellites to obtain waivers only if their signal strengths
exceed the values specified in Article 21 of the International Telecommunication Union’s Radio
Regulations (available at http://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-s/oth/02/02/S020200001A4501PDFE.pdf). The
Commission decided to harmonize its rules with those international regulations, which are less restrictive
than the rules formerly applied by the Commission. The following terms are used in this paragraph:
Geostationary satellite – a satellite that is positioned above the equator and orbits the earth every 24
hours, thus appearing to remain motionless relative to the ground below.
Geostationary-satellite orbital arc a circle high above the equator where geostationary satellites are
placed to achieve a geostationary orbit.
Decibel watt (dBW) – a measure of electromagnetic energy expressed on a logarithmic scale.
Isotropic – a term applied to radio antennas that radiate equal amounts of energy in all directions, as
distinguished from directional antennas, which concentrate signals along defined pathways.
Effective Isotropic Radiated Power, also called Equivalent Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP) – the amount
of power that would be transmitted in a specified arc from an omnidirectional antenna operating at a
given power level. EIRP is typically used to express the power being transmitted from a directional
antenna.
Revised Section 101.145 of the Commission’s rules requires FS license applicants to seek waivers when
they propose to send transmissions in the 2655-2690 MHz band or the 5925-7025 MHz band that would
be aimed within 2 degrees of the geostationary-satellite orbital arc and would generate more than 35
dBW, or 3,162 watts, of EIRP, and to proposed FS transmissions in the 12.7-13.25 GHz band that would
be aimed within 1.5 degrees of the geostationary-satellite orbital arc and would generate more than 45
dBW, or 31,623 watts, of EIRP.
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IV. INTERNET LINK AND CITATIONS

“Second Report and Order, Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Second Notice of Inquiry,
Order on Reconsideration, and Memorandum Opinion and Order”
Report and Order:
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-12-87A1.doc
27 FCC Rcd 9735 (2012) (including correction), modified at 27 FCC Rcd 12600 (2012), 77 Fed. Reg.
54421 (2012), corrected at 77 Fed. Reg. 73956 (2012).
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