August 9, 2011 - 2:03 pm
By John Schauble | Deputy Division Chief, Broadband Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Today, the FCC released a wireless backhaul item that implements key recommendations of the National Broadband Plan, by removing outdated regulatory barriers and unleashing additional spectrum for broadband services. The FCC’s actions will stimulate additional opportunities for broadband deployment, especially in rural America.

Wireless backhaul facilities carry voice and data communications from cell sites, businesses, wireless internet access points and other facilities to the public telephone network and the Internet.  Wireless technology is an increasingly important source of backhaul, as the overall demand for backhaul capacity continues to rise. In some rural and remote locations, fixed microwave links may be the only practical option for backhaul. Finding new opportunities to use wireless backhaul, and ways to use it more effectively, will help to solve the broadband capacity puzzle as more Americans use smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other devices to browse the web, use email, and download applications wirelessly.  

The wireless backhaul Report & Order takes several actions, including:

  • Making additional spectrum available for wireless backhaul – as much as 650 megahertz, especially in rural areas – by permitting fixed microwave links to operate in several bands previously reserved for specialized microwave services. 
  • Permitting microwave licensees to use “adaptive modulation,” which allows licensees to use the latest technology to maintain the reliability of critical links. 
  • Permitting broadcasters to use fixed microwave links more freely, by eliminating the outdated “final link rule.” 

The Wireless Backhaul item also includes a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on additional proposals for making microwave communications more flexible and cost-effective, including:

  • allowing smaller antennas in certain microwave bands, which could result in cost savings for licensees and allow more deployments of microwave facilities; and
  • exempting licensees in non-congested areas from the FCC’s efficiency standards, which may make use of fixed microwave links more cost-effective in rural areas.

The FCC’s actions are pretty technical in nature, but they will help all Americans by making it easier to deploy infrastructure that is needed to support the mobile services that we all increasingly rely upon.