Posts Tagged ‘unlicensed’

Top News: FCC Initiates Release of 195 MHz of Unlicensed 5 GHz Spectrum

January 11, 2013

          Great news on the wireless front, coming from the FCC: Chairman Julius Genachowski announced at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Wednesday, January 9, 2013, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) will be working towards freeing up as much as 195 MHz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band, making it the largest block of unlicensed spectrum to be made available in a decade.

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                The move is designed to alleviate heavy Wi-Fi traffic at sites such as airports, convention centers, and large conferences, while simultaneously increasing HD video quality and improving speeds in residences with multiple devices. This action will increase and free-up the unlicensed spectrum available for ultra high-speed, high-capacity Wi-Fi (known as Gigabit Wi-Fi), by up to 35%.  

          Alleviating network congestion and approving use of the unlicensed spectrum is one part of a much larger “technology initiative” ordered by President Obama: to free as much as 500 MHz of spectrum by 2020. Rob Enderle, Principal Analyst at the Enderle Group, states, “Given that National WiFi expansion is a presidential priority, the FCC is likely going to do all it can to free up the spectrum.” Chairman Genachowski has committed the Commission to move hastily in order to complete this process, however, as the 5GHz band is currently used for Federal and non-Federal purposes, the effort will likely require a significant collaboration between multiple agencies. Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge said, “There’s a potential with a move like this to not just look at bands generically, but to differentiate the circumstances where these bands should be put to use as they become available. That can make it become a much more efficient system overall, when we can match the traffic and need with the right spectrum.” ImageThe FCC has not only committed to free up bandwidth, but they have also hinted at putting an increased emphasis on spectrum allocation. Feld continued on to state, “Having more of these bands that are separate from each other allows you more freedom and better setup if you’re at a convention center, for instance. You can dedicate the 5 GHz band to the WiFi for the convention floor, while different bands are being used for services like internal security and credit card readers and other needs for a wireless network.” In addition to more specific allocation, the FCC additionally has taken steps in recent years to employ the potential of next-generation unlicensed spectrum, which operates in a lower frequency than existing Wi-Fi, and would enable wireless communication to travel longer distances, better penetrate barriers such as building materials, and offer improved coverage over varying terrain.

             It is evident that the Commission is better understanding the urgent need for not only wireless service, but improved wireless service, for the enterprise and consumer landscape. This need is only increasing as the population quickly gravitates towards the inevitable use of smartphones, tablets, and the cloud. It is a very interesting time for technology, and the Wi-Fi world as a whole; it is likely that such a massive release of spectrum for National use will spark a total reconstruction of what we now know as a wireless network. For now, we sit back and wait.