The recent issuance of a Report and Order by the FCC making changes to the 5 GHz bands has created quite a stir in the industry, providing both new opportunities and challenges. And, as there are quite a few countries that follow the FCC’s lead in regulatory matters, it is likely that these changes will affect other regions which try to harmonize their rules with the FCC. While there are many changes in the rules, here are a few of the highlights that will directly impact our customers.
We can start with the opportunities, the biggest of which is the opening up of the 5.15-5.25 GHz band to outdoor operation. The new rules allow for access points to have 1W conducted power out plus a 6dBi antenna, or a max of 36 dBm EIRP. For fixed point-to-point applications, the rules will allow a maximum 1W conducted power with up to a 23dBi antenna, or up to 53dBm EIRP. The FCC also expanded the U-NII 3 band by an additional 25 MHz to cover 5.725-5.850 GHz to bring it in line with the ISM band governed by Part 15.247.
What do these new rules mean for our customers? First, it’s an opportunity to reduce interference. The additional 100 MHz of available spectrum without DFS restrictions will be a welcome relief in areas where clear channels have been hard to come by. In particularly crowded areas, we may see a migration of some operators down to the new 5.15-5.25 GHz band from the 5.725-5.850 GHz band, giving those using legacy equipment which does not support the new band a little more breathing room. Second, the addition of another band which allows for higher power (up to 53 dBm EIRP) point-to-point links will help our customers more efficiently and economically deliver broadband services to underserved communities, particularly in sparsely populated and dispersed rural areas.
The addition of 25MHz to the to U-NII 3 band, on the other hand, really does not bring much to the table for operators, since most already employ equipment authorized under 15.247 which allowed for operation from 5.725-5.850 GHz. The FCC stated that it was trying to bring more consistency to rules (15.247 and 15.407) governing operation in the 5.7-5.8 bands. Fortunately, the elimination of unlimited gain for point-to-point antennas for equipment approved under 15.247, which was proposed earlier by the FCC, was not implemented in the 5.7-5.8 band.
For equipment manufacturers like Ubiquiti, the new rules also contain provisions that will make it harder and more expensive produce equipment that meets the new rules. Some of these new rules are being vigorously challenged by the OEM manufacturers, so there is still a possibility that the FCC may reconsider some of the more restrictive rules, especially with regard to the application of the U-NII band rules for unwanted emissions to the ISM band.
Other rules that the FCC proposed, such as opening up of the bands from 5.350 – 5.470 GHz (U-NII-2B) and 5.850 – 5.925 GHz (U-NII-4) bands are still under consideration. We will keep you posted as things progress, and we will continue to advocate for regulations which will enable Ubiquiti to bring economical, reliable, and efficient solutions to our customers.