FCC To Boost Wi-Fi Access In Planes

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a notice outlining its proposal to create rules intended to expand the access of broadband services onboard planes by establishing an air-ground mobile broadband service, which would operate in the 14.0-14.5 GHz band, on a secondary, non-interference basis with Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS) Earth-to-space communications.

FCC To Boost Wi-Fi Access In Planes

According to the FCC, “The key to such band sharing is spatial diversity, with FSS earth station antennas oriented to the south and above the horizon, air-ground mobile broadband base stations oriented to the north, and air-ground mobile broadband aircraft stations oriented below the horizon. Air-ground mobile broadband would be required to protect primary FSS in the band from harmful interference, and would be required to accommodate other Federal and non-Federal users in the band.”

The proposed rulemaking will allow passengers to be able to connect to a full range of communication services (multi-gigabit broadband connectivity) while flying across contiguous United States excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and island territories.

The FCC said that its plan could help meet the increasing demand for broadband connectivity on board planes. The agency estimated that the number of airplanes that would offer broadband services would increase from 3,000 in 2012 to 15,000 by 2021.

In July 7, 2011, QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) submitted a petition for rule making for the expansion of secondary mobile allocation in the 14.0 to 14.5 GHz band to support air-ground mobile operation.  The company’s proposal included an engineering study to avoid harmful interference, technical and licensing rules.

The FCC proposed the implementation for the 14.0 to 14.5 GHZ to support the new allocation and it would require a license to use the spectrum for air-ground mobile broadband only. In addition, the agency is seeking comments regarding the proper regulatory framework for the proposed provision of the service.

The agency also seeks comments regarding its proposal to classify the service as Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) and to the proposal of QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) to create two 250 megahertz licenses and an alternative approach to license the entire 500 megahertz to a single licensee, or dividing the spectrum to more than two blocks.

In a statement, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said, “Increasing the availability of spectrum – and hitting the long-term goal of 500 MHz by 2020 will require a great deal of ongoing work. The game is certainly worth the candle because a robust mobile ecosystem will drive economic growth, job creation, and our country’s global competitiveness. Today’s Notice of Proposed Rule making would free up, for secondary use, 500 megahertz of spectrum, for a new Air-Ground Mobile Broadband service. So we would be going for 4 megahertz of spectrum for air-to-ground to 504 megahertz.”

Genachowski added that the agency’s proposal could boost broadband capacity of up to 300 gigabits per second on a combined basis, which allows business and leisure travelers aboard United States aircrafts to be more productive and enjoy more entertainment, communications and social media at lower prices.

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