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FCC Moves to Open More Unlicensed Spectrum

Wed, 02/20/2013 - 5:24pm
Andrew Berg

The FCC Wednesday issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to make more unlicensed spectrum available for robust public Wi-Fi networks. 

According to a press release, the commission today proposed to make up to 195 megahertz of additional spectrum in the 5 GHz band available to unlicensed wireless devices.  It also proposed to create a more flexible regulatory environment, and to streamline existing rules and equipment authorization procedures for devices throughout this band.  

The commission's decision will allow the delivery new super-fast WiGig WiFi in hopes of alleviating WiFi congestion at major hubs such as airports, conferences, stadiums and in the home. 

Unlicensed devices today operate in 555 megahertz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band, and are used for short range, high speed wireless connections including Wi-Fi-enabled local area networks and fixed outdoor broadband transceivers used by wireless Internet service providers to connect smartphones, tablets and laptops to the broadband network.

The proposed modifications would provide access to additional contiguous spectrum with consistent technical requirements, allowing unlicensed devices to use wider bandwidth channels, leading to faster speeds.  

A spokesperson for AT&T said that while move by the FCC is important, the clearing and auctioning of spectrum below 3 GHz for exclusive, licensed use must remain a priority for the FCC. 

“AT&T has long recognized the value of unlicensed spectrum technologies, such as Wi-Fi, and we have built the nation’s largest Wi-Fi network," the spokesperson said. 

The Wireless Innovation Alliance (WIA) also said the move is a step in the right direction. But the WIA also emphasized the need for "both unlicensed and licensed spectrum at different frequency ranges across the spectrum bands to support and maximize all applications and innovations."

Mary Brown, director of Cisco government affairs, said in a statement that the importance of conduction "a rigorous and techinical examination of whether Wi-Fi technologies can successfully use spectrum that is not in use today without causing harmful interference to existing, or future, radio systems that operate in the same frequency block."

"Cisco is grateful for the opportunity to engage in a process that elevates the technical examination to the forefront, ahead of any final determinations on the use of the spectrum," Brown said.  "If the technical issues can be satisfactorily resolved, it could lay the foundation for innovative new applications and technology by making available  up to 200 MHz of spectrum for Wi-Fi networks and devices, as well as improving existing access to 5 GHz."

 

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