The FCC has granted temporary permission to wireless internet service providers (WISPs) in rural portions of 29 states and the US Virgin Islands to operate in the 5.8 GHz band (5.850 – 5.895 GHz). The authorization, to help meet the temporary surge in demand for residential fixed broadband services during the COVID-19 pandemic, was one of multiple waivers issued in the past week that grant temporary access to a variety of bands in response to the uptick in residential broadband demand.
The 5.8-GHz grants were effective on March 26. Each grant is for 60 days, provided individual WISPs file STA applications within 10 days of March 26. Amateur Radio shares this spectrum on a secondary basis with Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) systems and industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) applications, and that status remains unchanged.
“[E]ach applicant is independently responsible for complying with the conditions of its grant,” the FCC’s Keith D. Harper, Associate Chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Mobility Division wrote in granting the request. “Applicants are advised that this includes ensuring proper protection of incumbents in the 5.8 GHz band.” The Commission noted that WISPs are responsible for ensuring that they do not cause interference to existing licensees.
According to the request, each of the WISPs provides fixed wireless broadband service in rural areas, primarily relying on unlicensed spectrum for last-mile connections to end users. “Many of the WISPs’ customers have no other alternative to terrestrial broadband services,” the request said.
Commenting earlier this month in response to an FCC Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in WT Docket 19-138 — in which the FCC said it would “take a fresh and comprehensive look” at the rules for the 5.8 GHz band — ARRL called the FCC’s attention to the widespread use of the 5.8 GHz band for amateur mesh and amateur television networks, as well as links that radio amateurs have engineered into the band on a non-interference secondary basis “and which often are used directly for public service purposes when there are no other facilities available.”
The Commission’s emergency grant explicitly requires that the WISP operations be conducted on a non-interference basis. If unexpected interference within this spectrum range is experienced, radio amateurs should consult Attachment 1 of the grant and contact the WISP indicated at the address and email address provided.