Expanded use of mid-band spectrum by new wireless broadband services could interfere with critical utility networks used for the reliable operation of the nation's electricity grid, the Utilities Technology Council told federal regulators.
Allowing these services into the 6 GHz spectrum bands might also inhibit the use of "smart" electricity technologies that could revolutionize how consumers use and consume power, UTC comments to the Federal Communications Commission said.
UTC represents critical electricity, water, and gas utilities who own and operate their own telecommunications systems. Utilities rely on their networks so they can update, modernize, repair, and restore their services that provide essential energy and water resources. The Edison Electric Institute joined in the comments as well.
The FCC is inquiring whether it should expand use of the 5.925-6.425 and 6.425-7.125 bands—collectively referred to as the "6-GHz bands"—to new entrants and devices. The inquiry comes after several of the agency's bureaus in January granted a waiver permitting the operation of 50,000 satellite earth stations by a company called Higher Ground without any prior coordination with utilities and others who operate mission critical microwave systems throughout the 6 GHz band.
UTC and others have asked the commission to reconsider the Higher Ground order as it is contrary to the record, evidenced by the near universal opposition due to interference concerns.
In its comments on the 6-GHz inquiry, UTC noted that electric and water utilities, along with pipelines and other critical infrastructure providers, use the 6 GHz microwave systems to support voice and data communications in their service territories. These industries use this band when safety personnel are updating, modernizing, repairing, and restoring their infrastructure.
"[T]he critical nature of the traffic carried over these networks must be underscored," the comments said. "These microwave systems serve as the primary telecommunications backbone for utility networks, and carry numerous applications as services."
Energy and water providers have few alternatives to operating in the 6 GHz band, the groups said. This is particularly critical as utilities deploy new technologies that will offer more interaction with their customers.
"In order to support increasing demand from smart grid and other applications, utilities need to be able to expand capacity in the 6 GHz band by using wider channels, and utilities are concerned that congestion and interference from new entrants would make it more difficult for utilities to increase capacity of their existing system," according to the comments.
Meanwhile, the FCC's inquiry also sought feedback on expanded use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band (collectively referred to as the 4 GHz band). UTC offered its support for this proposal. The 4 GHz band "could serve to support a variety of broadband communications applications," the groups said.