FCC Frees up 5 GHz Spectrum for Unlicensed Wi-Fi Use
February 21, 2013 2:25 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
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
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
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 (
, 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."
"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes
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