- FCC Adopts Wireless Backhaul Reforms
- August 25, 2011
- Law Firm: Lerman Senter PLLC - Washington Office
As part of its continuing effort to promote broadband deployment in the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission has revised its rules governing the licensing and operation of wireless microwave links - an increasingly important form of “backhaul” used to transmit data between cell sites or between cell sites and communication networks. While primarily intended to provide wireless fixed service (“FS”) operators with greater backhaul capacity, the Commission’s actions also directly affect television broadcasters in two ways.
Limited Fixed Service Operations Now Permitted in Broadcast Auxiliary Service Frequencies
First, the Commission authorized FS operators to share the 7 and 13 GHz frequency bands currently assigned to the Broadcast Auxiliary Service (“BAS”) in areas where there are no previously licensed co-channel TV pickup authorizations. TV pickups are mobile or temporarily located BAS stations (for example, electronic news gathering trucks transmitting breaking news stories or other live events) which, because of their non-fixed nature, makes sharing with FS operations infeasible. By not allowing FS operations within the service areas of licensed TV pickups, the Commission sought to protect “important electronic newsgathering functions.” To accommodate TV pickups covering events that occur outside licensed areas of local BAS operations, the Commission also excluded FS operations from four 25 MHz channels in the 7 and 13 GHz bands nationwide.
In contrast to its incompatibility with mobile BAS stations, FS operations can share spectrum with non-mobile BAS stations, and thus the Commission will permit FS stations to operate in the BAS frequency bands in areas where no mobile TV pickups are licensed. The Commission estimates that shared FS and BAS operations will be possible in largely rural areas covering more than half of the nation’s land mass but only about 10 percent of the nation’s population.
To help protect your licensed TV pickups from FS operations, we recommend that you confirm that the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (“ULS”) includes each of your authorized facilities and that the operational information for each facility is accurately reflected in the ULS database.
“Final Link” Rule Eliminated
Second, the Commission eliminated the “final link” rule that prohibits broadcasters from using FS stations as the final radiofrequency link in the distribution chain of programming to broadcast stations. The Commission concluded that the rule no longer served any useful purpose as broadcasters continue to migrate to digital technologies. In addition, eliminating the rule will save broadcasters from having to build one system to carry programming to the transmitter site and a separate, largely redundant, system to handle other data.