As the world moves toward the rollout of fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless technology, the numbers of devices operating in many locations have grown exponentially. The Federal Communications Commission manages the commercial use of the radiofrequency spectrum – those invisible airways on which consumer and commercial wireless devices and networks operate. More wireless devices demand more use of the radio spectrum, leading the FCC to consider how to manage the spectrum more efficiently.
To that end, for the first time in two decades the agency may consider whether and how it may regulate receivers, which is the part of a wireless system that takes in transmissions of communications (e.g., voice, data). Poorly performing receivers make for inefficient spectrum use, limiting the FCC’s ability to cram more users into existing spectrum bands (a finite resource).
Late last year, the design of receivers made national news as the airline industry publicized concerns with possible interference to aircraft altimeters. An FCC decision to auction spectrum on an adjacent band to cellular carriers created concern that some altimeters could suffer performance degradation because these devices “listened” in to the adjacent band. The issue prompted the involvement of various parts of the Biden administration to step in and work out a short-term solution (for now) to modify the rollout of 5G services near airports.