FCC Grants Licenses For Terahertz Wireless Data Transfer Trials

5G technology has not yet arrived to all consumers, but it may already be a thing of the past. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently voted to grant experimental licenses to test frequencies between 95 GHz and 3 THz. The FCC hopes that these licenses will keep the United States “at the forefront of wireless innovation”.

Airwaves above 95 GHz are considered the “outermost horizon of the usable spectrum range”. Scientists and business owners will be able to conduct experiments in this range for up to ten years. They will also be able to more easily sell applicable products with the blessing of the FCC. The FCC has also reserved 21.2 gigahertz of spectrum for unlicensed devices. They hope that this reserved space will be enough to prevent experimenters from interfering with existing government operations. 

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Do these licenses mean that 6G devices will be available in the near future? Not necessarily. Higher frequency radio waves also have shorter wavelengths. These higher frequencies enable faster speeds and lower latency, but they can also require greater infrastructure. The distance between a 5G device and their small cell sites must be shorter than the distance between the tower and a 4G device. High frequency waves also have a difficult time penetrating solid structures. Institutions will therefore need to build more structures to provide coverage. This could potentially be cost prohibitive.

This technology would also be very difficult to deploy in rural areas. According to the US Census, approximately 60 million Americans live in rural areas. Many of these areas have yet to benefit from 4G, let alone any upcoming technologies.

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Regardless of the limitations of higher frequencies, the FCC is optimistic. Ajit Pai, the Chair of the FCC remarked that these spectrum horizons could lead to “new services and applications, such as personal health monitoring systems, see-in-the dark imaging, and centimeter-level position.” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr hopes that the new licenses will encourage entrepreneurs to invent and invest in technologies that could potentially help all Americans.

For the time being, companies are focused on pumping out 5G devices. Samsung recently unveiled their 2GB LPDDR4X DRAM chips which are supposed to be embedded in future 5G flagship devices. Customers are also able to preorder a 5G Moto Mod accessory for the Moto Z3. 5G devices are not yet ubiquitous, but consumers should expect an influx of them soon.