FCC to Free Up More Wi-Fi Spectrum to Alleviate Congestion

By Cameron Scott 

Internet, social networks, social media, WebThe Federal Communications Commission will make available to largest block on unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum since 2003, chairman Julius Genachowski said today.

By making available an additional 195 megahertz in the 5 gigahertz band, the FCC will boost speeds of the fastest, highest capacity Wi-Fi connections, called Gigabit Wi-fi, by as much as 35 percent, Genachowski said.

It will enable higher data speeds and greater capacity, and will ease the distribution of high-definition video.

The additional spectrum will “relieve congested Wi-Fi networks at major hubs like convention centers and airports. It will also help in homes as tablets and smartphones proliferate and video use rises,” said Genachowski.

The chairman was speaking in Las Vegas at the massive annual Consumer Electronics Show, where, in a familiar irony, Internet connections were crawling.

The problem results when many people connect to a network that doesn’t have enough capacity, not unlike a huge line forming at a water fountain that dispenses the liquid at a mere trickle.

The FCC will first have to free up the 5 gigahertz band Genachowski promised the conference goers: It is already in use mainly for government users. However, the chairman committed to expediting the process.

Although some have been critical of freeing up use of unlicensed, or essentially free and open, bandwidth, Genachowski maintained that doing so spurs innovation.

“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,” he said.