The big picture: While we’ve yet to see proper consumer implementations of 5G, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is already looking beyond the newest generation of wireless capabilities. On Friday the FCC voted unanimously to open up new parts of the electromagnetic spectrum for “innovators.”
The next big thing in the world of wireless networking will be 5G, which should be making its way to phones and other consumer devices in the coming months. And while it’s taken almost a decade since the launch of 4G for this latest iteration to come, the FCC is already looking ahead to new possibilities.
On Friday, the FCC released a statement confirming that they have voted to open up frequencies between 95GHz and 3THz for experimental use. The FCC said, “there are substantial opportunities for innovation in these frequencies, especially for data-intensive high-bandwidth applications.”
That could certainly be the case. 5G can use frequencies of up to 24GHz and has a theoretical limit of 40Gbit/s bandwidth – and frequencies of 95GHz or more will make 5G seem sluggish.
The problem though is that as the wavelengths increase, their ability to penetrate objects decreases. As such, signals in the terahertz frequencies can only be used over large distances as long as there’s nothing in the way to absorb them. It’s unlikely that your phone signal will ever make use of 3THz frequencies, as they can’t penetrate walls.
This is why the FCC is opening up the spectra for testing. The FCC is offering flexible licenses for experiments lasting up to 10 years so that use-cases can be identified, in order to keep the U.S. “at the forefront of wireless innovation.”
One domain that might see significant uptake of these new frequencies is the commercial space race. The relative emptiness of space means that terahertz frequencies may be viable, as there’s little in the way to absorb the radiation.