Last week, the office of Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel released a draft Notice of Inquiry (NOI) regarding spectrum availability and requirements to support the growth of Internet of Things (IoT).  The FCC will consider this NOI, which is intended to collect information and does not propose rules, in its next Open Commission Meeting scheduled for September 30, 2021. This proposed NOI is the latest in a series of FCC actions that will affect the future deployment of IoT products and services in the United States.

Pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021, the FCC is required to issue this NOI to seek comment on "current and future spectrum needs to enable better connectivity relating to the Internet of Things (IoT)."  As a part of its inquiry, the FCC would seek comment on:

  • whether the licensed spectrum that is available, or is planned for allocation, for commercial wireless services is adequate to support the needs of IoT;
  • how to ensure adequate spectrum is available outside of the bands being considered for commercial wireless access, including alternative bands that may be suitable for IoT;
  • whether spectrum sharing that is not possible for other types of commercial wireless networks could serve IoT deployment;
  • the role and spectrum requirements needed for IoT applications and services provided by satellites;
  • what regulatory barriers may exist to providing needed spectrum access for IoT deployment, including buildout requirements for IoT networks, license areas, and license terms;
  • the role of unlicensed devices in the growth of IoT and whether there is adequate spectrum available for such operations; and
  • how the topics covered in the NOI may promote or inhibit advances in diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

This proceeding will join other open proceedings where the FCC is considering new policies and rules to promote and regulate IoT products and services.  As we covered  previously, the FCC in June sought comment on whether it should encourage manufacturers of IoT devices to follow the guidance of the NIST's IoT Report as a standard.  Additionally, the FCC in July adopted a  Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) which would expand the permissible uses for short-range radars in the 57 to 64 GHz band.  As the FCC explained in its accompanying News Release, the rules could support a wide range of IoT applications, including "Internet of Things technologies for in-home automation services like environmental control and smart home appliances" as well as "enterprise solutions like factory automation."

If adopted at the September meeting (as is expected), comments on the NOI will be due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, with reply comments due 45 days after publication.

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