WiGig, unlicensed 5G, microwave backhaul, fixed wireless among current and future uses of 60 GHz

Two companies are seeking a waive of U.S. Federal Communication Commission rules governing use of the 60 GHz band. In response, a group of heavy-hitters in the tech world, all with their own interests in accessing the unlicensed frequency, are asking the regulatory body to carefully consider “reasonable coexistence among all technologies reliant on 60 GHz spectrum.”

Based on FCC filings, Leica Geosystems AG wants a waiver from the FCC in order to integrate a radar device that operates in the 60 GHz to 64 GHz range onto an unmanned aerial vehicle to visually inspect the exterior of structures. Vayyar Imaging Ltd. wants a similar waiver to for “interactive motion-sensing applications” in the 57 GHz to 64 GHz range for things like “touchless control, medical/safety alerts, vital sign monitoring and environmental management.” The waiver requests were submitted by the companies in September and November respectively.

In response to this waiver request, tech companies Facebook, Google, Infineon, Intel, Qualcomm and Socionext America, in a Feb. 3 letter to the FCC, point out that “These recurring requests for special relief outside of the current FCC rules confirm the need for the FCC to improve its regulatory framework governing unlicensed use of the 60 GHz band.”

The operative guidelines here are in Section 15.255 of FCC  code and cover the RF range from 57 GHz to 64 GHz. So what interest do the companies calling for a review of unlicensed activity in 60 GHz have in that band?

Facebook has been operating its Terragraph project, which uses 60 GHz for fixed wireless in dense, urban areas, for several years with partners, including Cambium, Common, MicroTik, Nokia, Qualcomm, Radwin and Siklu. This has yielded commercial deployments in Alameda, California, for instance, where Common Networks deployed a localized network.

Driving alignment around 60 GHz is a priority of the Telecom Infra Project, which Facebook founded to create cohesion around the development of low cost hardware that can facilitate rapid scaling for operators. That working group is focused on four major issues: providing an economic template to help operators determine potential new revenues or cost savings; create test and simulation tools for 60 GHz equipment; model and plan network deployments to minimize equipment costs; and develop a set of best practices.

Google’s interest is based on its Soli miniature radar which enables motion control of devices; the technology is present in Google’s Pixel 4 smartphone and Infineon provides the 60 GHz radar chip.

Socionext America makes system-on-chip products for automotive, consumer and industrial devices; it was formed through the integration of the integrated circuit organizations of Fujitsu and Panasonic, according to the company website. The company also makes 60 GHz radar sensing products.

Although adoption has been slow, 60 GHz has long been used for the Wi-Gig flavor of Wi-Fi based on the IEEE 802.11ad standard and is set to evolve to the 802.11ay standard which contemplates the addition of 4X4 MIMO to provide a bandwidth increase. Use cases include wireless docking or creating an in-home Wi-Fi hot spot for things like untethering a VR headset from a high-performance computer.

Intel and Qualcomm both make silicon that supports Wi-Gig. Qualcomm has also been working through the 3GPP to develop Rel. 16 specifications related to both non-standalone and standalone operation of 5G NR transmissions in the unlicensed 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands; that’s referred to as NR-U. The logical next step in that process would be NR-U for 60 GHz, although that’s not necessarily something that will be realized in the near-term.

Another use of the 60 GHz band that could prove important as 5G networks scale and are densified through the addition of small cells–wireless backhaul. Fiber is obviously the backhaul mechanism of choice as network capacity skyrockets but fiber isn’t everywhere and putting it everywhere would be cost prohibitive. As such, 60 GHz is used for wireless small cell backhaul.







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