FCC Establishes 6 GHz AFC System Lab Testing and Public Trial Requirements

On August 24, 2023, the Office of Engineering and Technology released a Public Notice announcing that it will permit testing of the automated frequency coordination (“AFC”) systems that will manage access to 6 GHz band spectrum by standard power unlicensed devices to commence.  You may recall that last November, OET conditionally approved thirteen applicants to operate AFC systems.  Final approval of their AFC system is dependent upon passing lab testing and a public trial, as outlined in the Notice.

Lab Testing: OET adopts the Wi-Fi Alliances Lab Testing Plan for AFC systems.  This test requires that AFC systems: (1) successfully register a standard-power device for which all necessary information has been provided in accordance with the FCC’s rules; (2) unsuccessfully register a standard-power device that is missing information required by the FCC’s rules; and (3) correctly provide the permitted transmit power levels and available frequencies when test geographic, height, and location data is input into the system, for both national, international, and radio astronomy locations.  The testing may be performed at FCC-recognized accredited laboratories that have also been approved through WinnForum’s Citizens Broadband Radio Service Device (CBSD) testing and certification program and at test labs that have been accredited by WinnForum to conduct AFC system lab testing.

Lab testing can begin immediately.  At the conclusion of the test, the test lab will create a report describing the results of the test which must be submitted for OET review.  OET will review the reports and may require applicants to provide additional information or make modifications to their systems.

Public Trial: AFC system applicants will be required to make their systems available on the Internet to provide any interested member of the public an opportunity to test the systems’ functionality.  The applicant must provide clear instructions for users regarding the test portal, how to enter test vectors, how to seek help or get questions answered, allow users to enter test locations for anywhere in the US utilizing latitude, longitude, and height, and allow users to submit challenges to the AFC system if they believe the available frequency ranges and power levels are not in compliance with the FCC’s rules.  Applicants may work together to jointly operate a public test portal as a single point of entry for testing multiple AFC systems or operate individual test portals.

The public trial may be conducted concurrently with the lab testing.  The test must be accessible for a minimum of 45 days and at least one week prior to the portal opening, the applicant must file notice with the FCC when the portal will become available and provide the portal’s URL.  After the public trial has ended, the applicant must prepare a report on the number of tests conducted, challenges received, and how challenges were resolved.  The report must be submitted to OET who will review the report to determine if the applicant needs to provide additional information or make modifications to their systems.

Other Issues: OET declined to require additional testing.  It also declined to adopt several other proposals in the record.

Approval of AFC Systems:  After the report describing lab testing and the public trial is submitted, OET will review to determine if they need additional information, if there need to be modifications to the AFC system, or if the applicant needs to conduct additional tests.  For those systems that OET has confidence will function as intended and provide interference protection to incumbent operators, OET will issue a Public Notice approving the AFC system for commercial operation.

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