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Microsoft, Google, Comcast among supporters for Wi-Fi access expansion

Well-known cable and tech firms have announced the formation of a coalition to expand access to Wi-Fi networks.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
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In response to the expansion of mobile technology and data-hungry consumers, a number of cable and technology companies have formed a coalition to expand access to Wi-Fi networks.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Google and Microsoft were expected to announce the new drive on Thursday. Now confirmed, "WifiForward" also includes partners such as Motorola, CEA and Best Buy.

The coalition's official mission statement says it is "an ad hoc, broad-based group of companies, organizations and public sector institutions working to alleviate the Wi-Fi spectrum crunch and to support making Wi-Fi even better by finding more unlicensed spectrum." In addition, the alliance aims to protect and strengthen existing unlicensed spectrum designations, free up spectrum for unlicensed use at a variety of frequencies, and establish transparent and predictable unlicensed rules that encourage the growth and deployment of networks.

WifiForward will lobby the U.S. government to free up additional spectrum resources that can be used to create new Wi-Fi networks, the allocation of which could lessen the burden on congested networks already under strain due to the expansion of mobile technology, data-hungry applications and both audio and video streaming.

According to Cisco, approximately 57 percent of all mobile data traffic in the United States is carried over Wi-Fi, and users consume roughly 1.4GB of data per month. However, the tech firm predicts that by 2018, 64 percent of mobile traffic will be supported by Wi-Fi and data consumption will increase to 9GB a month.

Improving Wi-Fi access makes sense for companies such as Google and Microsoft, as they rely on spectrum for their cloud-based and Web services. Google, for example, believes that improving speeds of networks will bolster software as a service in the future, and to this end is researching ways to boost data transmission speeds to 10Gbps.

The announcement of the coalition comes in as Comcast revealed plans to acquire Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion through a stock swap. It is unknown if this acquisition will impact on Time Warner Cable as a partner within WifiForward.

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