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FCC opens up new spectrum bands, prepares for 5G

The FCC is laying the groundwork for a 5G future.

During a July 14 meeting, the commission voted unanimouslyto adopt a report and orderthat will make spectrum in bands above 24 GHz available for flexible usewireless services, including 5G.

"Today, the U.S. becomes the first country to allocatespectrum for the next generation of wireless networks," Republican FCCCommissioner Michael O'Rielly said during the meeting.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, said during themeeting that he saw the July 13 vote as "one of, if not the most importantdecision this agency will make this year."

Wheeler added, "By becoming the first nation toidentify high-band spectrum, the United States is ushering in the 5G era ofhigh-capacity, low-latency wireless networks."

The proposal opens up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequencyspectrum for mobile, flexible and fixed-use wireless broadband. Specifically, 7GHz in the 64-71 GHz band will be opened up for unlicensed use, which whencombined with neighboring spectrum, will create 14 GHz of contiguous spectrumfor unlicensed use.

In tandem with the report and order, the FCC adopted afurther notice of proposed rulemaking to seek comment on whether to open upanother 18 GHz of spectrum encompassing eight other high-frequency bands foruse.

Notably, the commission's vote comes just three days afterVerizon Communications Inc.said it completed its5G radio specification, making it the first U.S. carrier to do so.

Separately, the commission also voted to adopt a frameworkthat guides the transition to next-generation communications technologies. Aspart of that vote, the commission granted a declaratory ruling, finding thattraditional local voice providers are no longer dominant in the market forconnecting local callers to long-distance networks.

"The increasing popularity of mobile wireless, cableVoice over IP services and regulatory changes combined to erode the dominantposition of local carriers in the market for interstate switched access,"the commission said in a July 14 news release.