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FCC opens up available Wi-Fi spectrum

In a move designed to alleviate some of the coming Wi-Fi spectrum crunch, the FCC has recently announced an expansion of the wireless spectrum.


The Federal Trade Commission recently announced that it would be allowing for an expansion of 100MHz in the congested 5GHz band of the wireless spectrum. The increase is available to unregistered users in congested areas like neighborhoods, convention centers, and airports and is meant to increase the potential for innovation in the spectrum.

What the increased spectrum means

The increase in available 5GHz spectrum is meant to open up the already congested airwaves for consumer and commercial Wi-Fi applications. As cellphones and other mobile devices take more and more Wi-Fi bandwidth, the already crowded spectrum available to Wi-Fi enabled systems was becoming dangerously overcrowded. The outlook is for even more congestion as Cisco reports in its Cisco Visual Networking Index that "there will be more traffic offloaded from cellular networks (on to Wi-Fi) than remain on cellular networks by2018."

The 100MHz available to the 5GHz spectrum and Wi-Fi applications is not a new addition, but was once held by satellite phone provider Globalstar. The company reached an agreement with the FCC earlier this year that opened up the additional bandwidth to Wi-Fi as well as satellite use.

Reaction and moving forward

The release of previously regulated and licensed spectrum is a welcome addition to the Wi-Fi landscape. In reaction to the announced 100MHz change, WifiForward, which is an advocacy group made up of companies, organizations, and public sector institutions working to expand Wi-Fi spectrum, released a statement "commend[ing] the Commission for crafting a thoughtful balance between the needs of incumbents and innovators to make sharing possible."

The ultimate hope with this change is for the increase in innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in providing new solutions for sharing the existing bandwidth spectrum.

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