There’s good news regarding the future of Amateur Radio’s primary allocation at 47 GHz in the US. Still a test bed for point-to-point propagation experimentation by dedicated enthusiasts, the 47-47.2 GHz band is among those under consideration at the next World Radiocommunication Conference in 2019 (WRC-19) to accommodate so-called 5G wireless broadband devices. Early this year, some FCC commissioners indicated they would include bands on the WRC-19 agenda in the Commission’s “Spectrum Frontiers” 5G initiative. As the Commission put it this week as it made nearly 11 gigahertz of spectrum above 24.25 GHz available for licensed, unlicensed, and shared use: “High-band millimeter wave spectrum is key to unlocking the potential for 5G.” The FCC’s Spectrum Frontiers included several of the bands set for consideration at WRC-19, but not the 47 GHz band — although it did target 47.2-50.2 GHz.
“Maintaining the status quo in the 47-47.2 GHz band is a win for continued Amateur Radio use of the band in the United States, and amateurs continue to do great things there,” ARRL Chief Technology Officer Brennan Price, N4QX, allowed. He pointed to the new US-Canada distance record of 215 kilometers set recently by radio amateurs from both countries. But, he suggested, Amateur Radio could be doing more there.
Spectrum in the millimeter range has come under increasing scrutiny, because the demand for greater throughput has driven demand for bandwidth — hence, the greater focus on spectrum above 24.25 GHz for next-generation 5G wireless broadband applications. As Price explains, it’s easier to find 200 megahertz of spectrum in the millimeter range than at UHF.
Price noted that radio amateurs have set up broadband networks on several lower microwave bands — nearly all of them allocated to hams on a secondary basis. “The 47 GHz band is allocated to the Amateur Service and the Amateur-Satellite Service on a worldwide primary and exclusive basis,” Price pointed out. “We don’t have to work around others in this space.”
He suggested that Amateur Radio broadband experimenters consider and develop upon the work of Ted Rappaport, N9NB — the founding director of NYU Wireless at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering — whose investigations have demonstrated that the millimeter waves may serve next-generation broadband systems. “For a long time, millimeter waves were thought to be most suitable for the point-to-point work that radio amateurs perfected and continue to advance,” Price said. “Ted’s work indicates that point-to-multipoint systems are feasible at this range, and the world has taken notice.”
Price stressed the need going forward for the worldwide Amateur Radio community to maintain a staunch defense of all spectrum allocated to the Service, as the 47 GHz band remains under consideration by other countries. The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) is organizing the protective effort on this and other issues as it continues to get ready for WRC-19.