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 the Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Commission increased flexibility in the use of microwave services licensed under Part 101 of the Commission’s rules. The Commission removed regulatory barriers that limited the use of spectrum for wireless backhaul and other point-to-point and point-to-multipoint communications and made 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.
In the Second Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Second Notice of Inquiry, Order on Reconsideration, and Memorandum and Opinion Order, the Commission continued to encourage the deployment of wireless backhaul by allowing for the use of smaller antennas in certain bands, updating efficiency standards, adopting a flexible, rural efficiency standards policy to facilitate substantial cost savings in deployment of wireless backhaul in rural areas, and providing for wider channels in certain bands to encourage FS operators to achieve faster data rates. In the Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking portion of the item, the Commission sought comment on further measures to promote wireless backhaul, including allowing smaller antennas in the 13 GHz band, revising antenna rules for the 11 GHz band to allow them to reduce power without having to upgrade their antennas, and permitting a licensee to make intermediate upgrades to an antenna if it will resolve interference without requiring the licensee to upgrade fully to the next category of antennas. And in the Second Notice of Inquiry of the item, the Commission specifically asked about other changes to antenna standards to reflect advances in technology, accommodate non-parabolic antennas, and promote harmonization with international standards.
- Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Memorandum Opinion and Order, Released: August 9, 2011 (FCC 11-120)
- Second Report and Order, Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Second Notice of Inquiry, Order on Reconsideration, and Memorandum Opinion and Order, Released: August 3, 2012, (FCC 12-87).
- Order, Released: October 5, 2012 (FCC 12-122)