Facebook suggests mm-wave spectrum should be free in Australia

Hints at multi-gig wireless, which should get nbn™ - and government - feeling nervous

Facebook has urged the Australian government to open up millimeter-wave spectrum for licence-free applications.

It's no secret that The Social Network™ has a fondness for wireless applications around the 60 GHz bands. Last year, it outlined its research into systems dubbed "Terragraph" and "Project ARIES" at its Connectivity Lab.

Terragraph proposes 60 GHz spectrum for dense urban applications, partly because that band is already unlicensed in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China, South Korea and Japan. Project ARIES focuses on modulation.

The company argues that Terragraph delivers fibre-like multi-gigabit services at high reliability and a low up-front cost, something Australia's suffering broadband users would welcome. That's because such high carrier frequencies enable very wide channels – 2160 MHz in the IEEE's 802.ad standard, for example.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) took submissions about 5G spectrum assignment until late October, and recently made the submissions public.

Facebook's submission to an ACMA consultation into mm-wave applications goes further: “as ACMA considers other mmWave bands, we encourage the ACMA to make bands available on a license-exempt basis wherever possible to encourage innovation and expand opportunities for low-cost wireless technologies,” its submission states.

The Social Network™'s submission is in line with its hopes for Terragraph: it would like to use “WiGig” systems for broadband tails. That stance is pitted against satellite users such as Boeing, who want at least some of the spectrum to be preserved for Very High Throughput Satellite (VHTS) applications, while the telco sector is more interested in lower bands like the 26 GHz for now.

Facebook would like to see the whole band from 57 GHz to 71 GHz open for unlicensed use; currently, the ACMA has only allowed 59 to 63 GHz for such applications.

The submission recites Facebook's boilerplate discussion of Internet adoption – that there's still four billion people without any access, and the new adoption rate in 2015 was only seven per cent – which sits slightly oddly with the desire to run up gigabit wireless as an urban fibre replacement. ®

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