Broadband is indispensable to our digital economy, and wireless technology is an increasingly important source of broadband connectivity. A leading example of the role of wireless technology in connecting the nation to broadband is the impact and potential of point-to-point microwave systems. An essential component of many broadband networks – particularly in mobile wireless networks – microwave backhaul facilities are often used to transmit data between cell sites, or between cell sites and network backbones. Service providers’ use of microwave links as a cost-effective alternative to traditional copper circuits and fiber optic links has been increasing. In certain rural and remote locations, microwave is the only practical high-capacity backhaul solution available.
A robust broadband ecosystem therefore relies, at least in part, on access to adequate and cost-efficient backhaul. In this Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Memorandum Opinion and Order, we continue our efforts to increase flexibility in the use of microwave services licensed under our Part 101 rules. The steps we take will remove regulatory barriers that today limit the use of spectrum for wireless backhaul and other point-to-point and point-to-multipoint communications. We also make additional spectrum available for wireless backhaul – as much as 650 megahertz – especially in rural areas, where wireless backhaul is the only practical middle mile solution. By enabling more flexible and cost-effective microwave services, the Commission can help accelerate deployment of fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadband infrastructure across America.