FCC Eases Restrictions on 5GHz UNII-1 Band

The FCC just made an unofficial news release of pending action that was approved at today's commission hearing which eases restrictions on the existing 5 GHz UNII-1 frequency band (5.150-5.250 GHz, Wi-Fi channels 36-48).

To quote from the news release (emphasis added by me):
By its action the Commission significantly increased the utility of the 100 megahertz of spectrum, and streamlined existing rules and equipment authorization procedures for devices throughout the 5 GHz band.
This ruling makes the following changes to the UNII-1 band:
  • Removes restriction on indoor use. Now the UNII-1 band can be used outdoors as well. This will allow use of the band by WISPs and for outdoor hotspot deployments which are rapidly growing with the support of telecommunications and cable operators.

  • Increases the allowed power output. The power output had been lower in UNII-1 than other 5 GHz UNII bands due to indoor-only use (50mW IR, 200mW EIRP). Exact details of the new power limits have not been released, but it is fair to assume the UNII-1 band will have similarly capable power output as UNII-2/2e bands (250mW IR, 1W EIRP) the UNII-3 band (1W IR, 4W EIRP). (Update after reviewing Commissioner Rosenworcel's statement and Commissioner O'Rielly's statement it appears the new power limits will be higher and align with the existing UNII-3 band).
And an additional change to all UNII bands (particularly UNII-2 with DFS restrictions):
  • Modified equipment authorization rules that requires manufacturers to secure devices against unauthorized software changes and illegal uses. Commissioner O'Rielly's statement makes it pretty clear that this is directed toward manufacturers of outdoor WISP equipment that allowed easy circumvention of DFS radar checks that resulted in several instances of TDWR interference and forced the FCC to restrict all Wi-Fi use in the TDWR band (Wi-Fi channels 120-128 are affected). For those interested, here is a list of Enforcement Actions against TDWR interference. Notable repetitive offending manufacturers include Motorola Canopy and Ubiquity Networks equipment. 
It should also be noted that the the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) analyzed the UNII-1 changes with stakeholders to come to an acceptable outcome regarding the risk to existing licensed use for Satellite Operators (Globalstar) in the 5.150-5.250 GHz band (see the U.S. Frequency Allocation table).
The aim of today's regulation changes are to streamline the rules surrounding 5 GHz UNII bands to allow easier adoption and integration of all available spectrum into devices. I would anticipate future rulings surrounding DFS bands to make further strides in this area as well, since DFS support and adoption has been lackluster to-date and a hindrance to utilizing all available unlicensed spectrum.

Keep a close eye on future FCC rulings in the 5 GHz band around the end of this year or early 2015, when an ongoing study into adding an 195 MHz spectrum to the unlicensed 5 GHz bands should be completed. You can read more about that initiative in 'Wi-Fi May Get A Capacity Boost, Thanks to the FCC'.