FCC plans to free up spectrum, boost Wi-Fi speeds

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said at CES that the agency plans to free up 195MHz of 5GHz wireless spectrum to improve the capacity and speed of Wi-Fi services.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
fcc spectrum free up ces 2013 broadband unlicensed

The FCC has announced its plans to free up 195 megahertz of spectrum in the 5 gigahertz band as high-traffic congestion continues to rise and impact wireless networks.

Speaking at CES on Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski said that the new scheme, aimed at increasing speeds and alleviating congestion in public areas including airports, conventions and conferences, will soon be launched. Next month, the commission will begin releasing up to 195 megahertz of spectrum in the 5 gigahertz band.

The agency hopes that the new initiative will result in speed increases of up to 35 percent. The spectrum expansion is also of importance to home users, as freeing up the unlicensed spectrum block -- the largest chunk made available since 2003 -- will also help people using unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum to stream high-definition video on their personal devices.

Chairman Genachowski said:

"We all know the frustration of Wi-Fi congestion at conferences and airports. Today, the FCC is moving to bring increased speed and capacity to Wi-Fi networks by increasing the amount of unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi. When the FCC helped pioneer Wi-Fi nearly thirty years ago -- through an innovative spectrum policy that relied on unlicensed use =- no one knew the potential it held.

But that FCC-created platform for innovation gave us cordless phones, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, benefitting consumers and our economy massively."

As the 5 gigahertz band is used by federal agencies and other non-governmental entities, the chairman believes it will take "significant collaboration" to free up the spectrum. However, this is not the only project the FCC has launched in relation to spectrum and Wi-Fi, as the agency has worked over the past several years to free up space for broadband services.

In 2010, the Commission allocated unused spectrum between broadcast channels, otherwise known as "white spaces," on an unlicensed basis. As an incentive in the midst of upcoming wireless broadband spectrum auctions, the agency will also be putting aside low-band unlicensed spectrum for unlicensed use.

"We'll keep nurturing today's Wi-Fi as we also develop a next generation of spectrum policies to drive our mobile future for our innovators and our economy," Genachowski commented.

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