Print 15 comment(s) - last by RufusM.. on Feb 25 at 12:08 PM

New spectrum would boost unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum by a third

Aiming at Wi-Fi speeds faster than 1 gigabit per second, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced plans this week to try to free up 195 MHz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band for unlicensed use.  The plan could help to tackle the nation's spectrum "crisis".

I. Towards Faster Wi-Fi

The plan is somewhat controversial, as it could see commercial users jumping on bands used by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other government agencies.  These agencies have advised against the plan.

But FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski argues:

Wi-Fi congestion is a very real and growing problem. Like licensed spectrum, demand for unlicensed spectrum threatens to outpace supply. The core challenge is the dramatically increased use of wireless devices, which require spectrum.

This additional spectrum will increase speeds and alleviate Wi-Fi congestion at major hubs, such as airports, convention centers and large conference gatherings. In addition, this would also increase speed and capacity for Wi-Fi in the home where multiple users and devices are often on the network at the same time. Because the 5GHz band is already used for other purposes by both federal and non-federal users, the effort will require significant consultation with stakeholders to enable non-interfering shared use of the spectrum. But consultation can't be an excuse for inaction or delay.

The new FCC plan would boost unlicense Wi-Fi space by a third.

5 GHz devices currently have access to about 555 MHz.  The plan would up their allotment by about a third.

II. Spectrum Sharing, Signal Boosting

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on a project to try to resolve spectrum battles between government agencies and corporate users.  The program dubbed Shared Spectrum Access for Radar and Communications (SSPARC) looks to establish a more codified framework for spectrum sharing.  

Writes the research team, "Balancing national security requirements of radars and military networks with the growing bandwidth demands of commercial wireless data networks calls for innovative approaches to managing spectrum access."

The FCC also has filed a formal approval for the use of wireless "booster" devices (femtocells, etc.).  Such devices are particularly useful in buildings or tunnels where standard signal towers fail to reach with strong signals.  FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn says the approval was made only after careful cooperation with industry leaders.  

Femtocells are already available; this is AT&T's 3G Microcell. [Image Source: Paul Stamatiou]

He comments, "Most of the procedural and technical rules we adopt for consumer signal boosters are based on a Consolidated Proposal, agreed to by several signal booster manufacturers, the four nationwide wireless service providers, and over 90 small, rural, wireless service providers. They are designed to facilitate the development of safe, economical signal boosters, reduce consumer confusion, and encourage innovation in the booster market."

Sources: InfoWorld, DARPA

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Feto cells
By bah12 on 2/21/2013 4:03:44 PM , Rating: 3
Problem with Feto cells is that the ATT one requires a GPS signal for e911. So it needs a window, and thus prevents you from putting it in the middle of a structure.

Also the complete rip off it is.

1. You have to pre-register the phones it doesn't just boost anyone. So onsite vendors/clients don't get a benefit.

2. They cap the number of devices (15 I think)>

3. Most importantly they charge me $199 to subsidize their shIItty network coverage with my hard paid for bandwidth.

I don't mind the concept, but have a program to allow for free cells to people in areas you know the coverage is bad.

RE: Feto cells
By 3DoubleD on 2/21/2013 7:47:00 PM , Rating: 3
I like the idea of Femtocells as well, but it seems to be a silly solution to a problem that should be simple to fix.

In almost every building that has terrible cell signal, you will almost always find a WiFi network, or another way of putting it, anywhere you could put a Femtocell you could install a WiFi AP. So then why can't carriers create market downloadable apps to enable WiFi calling?!?!

Why produce an expensive, useless piece of hardware like a Femtocell when we already have existing infrastructure that already works! The WiFi APs are cheap and in many places are already installed, all mobile products already work with it, it doesn't use up additional spectrum... this lists goes on...

It blows my mind, I absolutely don't understand it. My only thought is that the carriers don't want to do it because it causes them to lose control and/or makes people realize the "service" they provide isn't really worth the $/month.

RE: Feto cells
By Stiggalicious on 2/22/2013 8:59:16 AM , Rating: 2
Most of T-Mobile's Android phones do this, and Republic Wireless (which uses Sprint's network) shoves everything onto Wifi when possible.

RE: Feto cells
By 3DoubleD on 2/22/2013 9:27:38 AM , Rating: 2
That's great, I had no idea carriers were already doing that.

Now someone needs to tell Wind in Canada... maybe I could get a signal anywhere on my university campus (despite it being in a "covered" zone, it is hard to find a cell signal anywhere). WiFi calling would really help there.

RE: Feto cells
By Makaveli on 2/22/2013 2:44:31 PM , Rating: 1
Windy has shitty coverage and everyone knows that.

You get what you pay for.

RE: Feto cells
By 3DoubleD on 2/22/2013 3:30:38 PM , Rating: 2
A fact I was well aware of when I switched. I said to myself, if I'm paying half as much as before, I can expect half as good service. Fortunately, my service has been well over half (not to mention unlimited in it's use). Yes, there are some minor annoyances, but nothing that couldn't be easily fixed using my solution above. Regardless of anything else, nothing was more enraging that getting raped on my monthly bill by the Big 3. Yes, Wind's network isn't as large or consistent as the Big 3, but I hate being taken advantage of and at least I get what I pay for.

RE: Feto cells
By extide on 2/24/2013 4:20:06 PM , Rating: 2
Actually they dont even need to be androids. I used to have Blackberry's on TMobile that supported this. It is called UMA. It is pretty interesting because anywhere you have access to wifi/internet you can use the phone and send/receive text messages exactly the same as if you were on the actual mobile network. I even had it working on an airplane with WiFi before. The other passengers thought that was pretty weird lol.

RE: Feto cells
By RufusM on 2/25/2013 12:08:03 PM , Rating: 2
The big cell providers in the US don't want to support cell phone VOIP because it relegates them to just being dumb internet pipes. They are trying hard not to be a dumb internet pipe, but it's inevitable, unless something drastically changes to disrupt the current trend.

RE: Feto cells
By kilkennycat on 2/22/2013 12:40:09 PM , Rating: 2
So then why can't carriers create market downloadable apps to enable WiFi calling?!?!


RE: Feto cells
By 3DoubleD on 2/22/2013 3:32:40 PM , Rating: 2
Skype is a solution, albeit a much less elegant one to what I propose.

RE: Feto cells
By kyuuketsuki on 2/21/2013 7:54:59 PM , Rating: 2
AT&T does provide free femtocells for people in bad coverage areas. If you paid for yours, I'm afraid you got hosed. =/

RE: Feto cells
By djdjohnson on 2/22/2013 2:28:38 AM , Rating: 2
AT&T wouldn't cover the cost of mine even though I can't reliably receive, make, or hold onto calls. Since their coverage map says that coverage is good where I live, they wouldn't provide a microcell for free, even if a phone on their network is almost completely useless.

Nevermind what happens in the real world as long as their map says everything is fine. Coverage maps are always right.

RE: Feto cells
By CZroe on 2/21/2013 11:30:22 PM , Rating: 2
I have one exactly like the photo and for the last year I have had a different problem:
Extremely often I come home and my phone hops on the "microcell" and something happens that makes my battery tank. I mean it drops like a rock in water. My previous phone didn't do it and the family's other phones didn't, but my Xperia Play clearly shows an almost flat line for the hours I'm gone and a sharp dive when I come home. When I first got the phone I didn't discover the issue until I noticed that a fully charged phone would sometimes die before a short alarm had the chance to activate a measly 4 hours later (was late for work twice). I need the micro cell to make and receive calls at home so I usually just leave my phone plugged in, but it's something I deal with every day (IOW, hundreds of times per year) so it still has plenty of chances to frustrate me.

It's been a year and a half and I think it had a silent update pushed to it recently. iPhones always report it as "4G" while my Xperia signal indicator would say "3G" on the microcell and always "H+" or "E" on AT&T's cellular network (pretty sure all 3G towers are now HSPA+ "4G"). It recently started saying "H+" on the microcell but the battery-drain situation continues. Yeah, maybe a baseband update could fix it on my phone, but that's never going to happen and I still blame the microcell (clearly, not as well tested for compatibility as actual network hardware).

RE: Feto cells
By DockScience on 2/23/2013 2:18:38 PM , Rating: 2
That's AT&T.

Sprint provides their AirRave femtocell devices FREE to subscribers who have low coverage.

Mine works quite well.

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