FCC commissioners last week approved rules for wireless operations in frequencies above 24 GHz, spectrum that is expected to be leveraged significantly as 5G technologies are commercialized during the several years.

In the order, the FCC adopted a flexible framework for mobile and fixed wireless broadband operating on 10.85 GHz of airwaves. New licensed spectrum is located in the 28 GHz (27.5-28.35 GHz), 37 GHz (37-38.6 GHz), and 39 GHz (38.6-40 GHz) bands. A new unlicensed band is located from 64-71 GHz. 

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler described the action as “the most important decision this commission will make this year,” noting its significance from a global viewpoint, as well as from national perspective.

“By approving the Spectrum Frontiers order, the United States becomes the first country in the world to identify and open up vast amounts of high-frequency spectrum for 5G networks and applications,” Wheeler said during a press conference after last Thursday’s meeting. “This is the most significant step yet to enable high-speed, high-capacity, low-latency wireless networks that will improve our lives in myriad ways—many yet unimagined—and unlock countless innovations.”

No technology standard has been established for 5G, but some carriers and vendors already touting tests of pre-standard 5G equipment. While the technical details of the 5G standard still need to be done, there is consensus agreement that 5G will leverage much smaller cell sizes than 4G LTE, enabling data throughput at higher speeds, lower latency and greater power efficiency.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel outlined some of the technological possibilities that 5G connectivity could enable, including transit optimization, environmental sensing and public-safety uses.

“Imagine if we introduced cameras in the helmets of firefighters,” Rosenworcel said during the meeting. “They could relay video back to colleagues outside who could direct a team of firefighters in real time, enhancing safety for first responders and those they rescue. 5G technology can make it happen.”

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai echoed these sentiments.

“Today, the FCC does its part to pace the wireless revolution,” Pai said. “In this order, we open up over 10 GHz of high-band spectrum for innovative mobile use. In the further notice, we start the process of bringing perhaps twice that much spectrum online. And on many of the most important policy questions, we supply answers that should allow American consumers to continue to enjoy a mobile experience that is the envy of the world.”