February 28, 2017–The FCC has received mixed views on a request by Amtrak for a waiver to operate a Wi-Fi service. The waiver would “allow Amtrak’s trackside network (TSN) in the Northeast Corridor (NEC) to operate under the specifications that apply to fixed point-to-point operation in the 5.15-5.25 GHz (U-NII-1) and 5.75-5.825 GHz (U-NII-3) bands,” an Office of Engineering and Technology public notice last month observed (TRDaily, Jan. 27). “Amtrak states that the requested waiver would allow it to deliver high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity aboard trains traveling along the NEC without creating any increased risk of interference to authorized users of the U-NII-1 and U-NII-3 bands.”
In comments filed in ET docket 16-415, the Wi-Fi Alliance said that it “applauds Amtrak for recognizing Wi-Fi as a key component of service to its customers. However, Amtrak should demonstrate that the benefit its customers will receive will not impose a cost on other users of the 5 GHz band. Wi-Fi Alliance therefore requests that the Commission require Amtrak to provide further evidence of compatibility with other 5GHz operations before the Commission grants the requested waiver.”
The IEEE 802, which is the LAN/MAN Standards Committee, said in its filing, “Although the waiver request discusses the benefits for Amtrak, there is no mention of its potential impact on private and public Wi-Fi networks in the vicinity of the rail line. As an engineering driven organization, IEEE 802 are accustomed to making decisions of this kind based on simulations and actual measurements of the propagation characteristics of the service being evaluated, and the wireless network environment within range of the service. With this information, an impact study can determine the interference potential.
“Amtrak has provided no technical details regarding their network, no simulation results or measured data, and no characterization of the environment. With no information we cannot begin to understand its impact on neighboring Wi-Fi networks,” the filing added. “Allowing this waiver would therefore be granting preferred Part 15 status to the Amtrak network, as it would be done with no consideration for other networks that should have equal status,” the IEEE 802 said. “We therefore ask that before granting the waiver, the Commission request an impact study performed by or for Amtrak. If no study exists, the Commission should not proceed if and until such a study is done, and reviewed and evaluated by IEEE 802.”
But in another filing, Globalstar, Inc., said it “has undertaken substantial technical analysis of the proposed waiver through its technical consultant, Roberson and Associates, LLC. Globalstar has also engaged in several technical discussions with Amtrak representatives, and it appreciates Amtrak’s cooperative and professional approach during this process. Based on its analysis and these discussions, Globalstar does not object to the Commission’s grant of Amtrak’s waiver request given its very limited deployment and unique design, as long as such grant is narrowly tailored and includes all of the conditions proposed by Amtrak in its request.” —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org