Customer demand is increasing in North America and Europe for microwave per recent announcements. However, news covers the benefits and technical considerations, but with this ongoing series, we are diving in a little deeper to discuss what happens behind-the-scenes of this new trading solution. In this piece, we briefly discuss the FCC’s involvement in terms of licensing microwave in the US.
1. Licensed and unlicensed microwave
The FCC regulates all radio transmission — licensed or non-licensed. With that said, frequencies are set aside by the FCC for non-licensed situations as one can install a system without the time and expense involved in getting a license. The problem with non-licensed technology is that it might interfere with another system. The drawback of that is that if you have interference and you can’t arbitrate or eliminate the problem. The FCC does require licenses for licensed microwave.
This multiple part-process involves frequency coordination and license submission to the FCC and can take up to several weeks. Permits are usually required for antenna installation, from the municipality in question. If towers are involved, the process can be lengthy and expensive. All in all, getting a license is a short bit of work and well worth the time for the protection and peace of mind it affords.
2. The FCC licensing process
Getting an FCC license is relatively simple. There are two types of licenses: a) regional and fixed and b) point-to-point. Regional licenses get publicity because of the millions dollars carriers bid at FCC auctions in order to control certain frequencies in their markets. By contrast, the total cost for a point-to-point, private-user license is around $3,000-5,000 with options to renew. Any corporate, public or private organization can obtain a license to operate a microwave link, provided that the license is properly applied for through this three-part process:
a. Frequency Coordination
Your path data, coordinates, building heights, antenna and radio specifications are entered into the FCC database to determine a set of available frequencies. These may be confirmed in as little as 48-hours, after which they’re reserved for your license application.
b. PCN (Prior Coordination Notice)
While the reserved frequencies are held in your name, they aren’t officially yours until the end of a 30-day notice period, or the PCN. The PCN consists of a mailed form letter, giving a 30-day notification of your frequency assignment to other license holders in your area. This gives others an opportunity to dispute any frequency assignment that may have been made in error. Point-to-point licenses for short haul (low power) microwave radios are uncontested. For one, they’re not in short supply and second, these are not the same as regional licenses, which are coveted by common carriers and broadcasters.
c. Application Completion and Submission
Following the PCN period, you can complete your license application form and submit it online to the FCC.
For more FCC-related details on microwave, click here.
Despite the fact that there are plenty of airwaves, there is a challenge of space. Check out our third part of this series as we examine this further. Also, check out our first installment of our series on the technical considerations of microwave.