Wi-Fi Congestion Could Be Eased By Opening Up More Spectrum: FCC
February 21, 2013

FCC Votes To Open New Spectrum To Ease Wi-Fi Congestion

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted this week to establish new rules that would free up additional spectrum to boost speeds on Wi-Fi networks and ease wireless congestion in airports and other locations.

In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the Commission decided to move forward with the plan despite objections from automakers and their suppliers who claim the new Wi-Fi frequencies could interfere with car-to-car wireless communications systems being developed to prevent accidents.

The FCC proposal calls for up to 195 MHz of additional spectrum in the 5 GHz band, a 35 percent increase and the largest block of unlicensed spectrum to be freed up for the expansion of Wi-Fi networks since 2003.

The 5 GHz band covers short range, high speed wireless networks such as local Wi-Fi networks and fixed outdoor broadband transceivers used by wireless ISPs to connect smartphones, tablets and laptops to broadband, the Commission said.

While unlicensed wireless devices currently share 555 MHz in that band, the FCC´s plan would let providers use wider bandwidth channels, resulting in faster speeds.

"This additional spectrum will increase speeds and alleviate Wi-Fi congestion at major hubs, such as airports, convention centers and large conference gatherings," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement.

"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."

But providing this additional spectrum is not without challenges.

"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," Genachowski said.

"But consultation can't be an excuse for inaction or delay."

Genachowski initially proposed freeing up the additional Wi-Fi spectrum in January during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

"As we saw at the 2013 International CES, products increasingly rely on Wi-Fi," said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, in a statement on Wednesday.

"The Commission's proposal will expedite ultra high-speed, high-capacity Wi-Fi in support of the U.S. innovation economy. CEA and our members look forward to working with the FCC to craft rules that will enable all consumers to access data — whenever and wherever they want."

Separately, the Commission also released new rules for signal boosters that amplify signals between wireless devices and wireless networks.

The Commission called the new rules a “common sense, consensus-based technical solution that will help millions of consumers across the country.”

Genachowski said the plan would help reduce the number of "dead spots" throughout the U.S.

"They are a cost-effective means of expanding the reach of our nation's wireless infrastructure. Individual consumers with no technical expertise can install signal boosters in their homes or in their vehicles," he said.

The rules establish two classes of signal boosters, consumer and industrial, each with separate regulatory requirements.

Consumer class boosters must meet certain technical specifications, and users must receive permission from their provider, the Commission said.