- February 20, 2013 04:21pm EST
The Federal Communications Commission today officially proposed freeing up 195 MHz of spectrum in order to ease congestion and boost speeds on Wi-Fi networks.
Separately, the FCC also unveiled new rules for signal boosters, which amplify signals between wireless devices and wireless networks.
The Wi-Fi proposal calls for up to 195 MHz of additional spectrum in the 5 GHz band, a 35 percent boost. At this point, unlicensed wireless devices share 555 MHz in that band.
“This additional spectrum will increase speeds and alleviate Wi-Fi congestion at major hubs, such as airports, convention centers and large conference gatherings,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement. “In addition, this would also increase speed and capacity for Wi-Fi in the home where multiple users and devices are often on the network at the same time.”
The 5 GHz band covers short range, high speed wireless connections like Wi-Fi-enabled local area networks and fixed outdoor broadband transceivers used by wireless ISPs to connect smartphones, tablets and laptops to broadband, the FCC said. Ultimately, the move will let providers use use wider bandwidth channels, leading to faster speeds.
Providing this extra spectrum, however, is not as easy as flipping a switch. “Because the 5GHz band is already used for other purposes by both federal and non-federal users, the effort will require significant consultation with stakeholders to enable non-interfering shared use of the spectrum,” Genachowski said. “But consultation can’t be an excuse for inaction or delay.”
Genachowski first proposed freeing up spectrum for Wi-Fi networks at this year’s CES. The move would be the largest block of unlicensed spectrum to be made available for the expansion of Wi-Fi since 2003.
“As we saw at the 2013 International CES, products increasingly rely on Wi-Fi,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, said in a statement. “The Commission’s proposal will expedite ultra high-speed, high-capacity Wi-Fi in support of the U.S. innovation economy. CEA and our members look forward to working with the FCC to craft rules that will enable all consumers to access data – whenever and wherever they want.”
On signal boosters, meanwhile, the FCC said its rules are “a common sense, consensus-based technical solution that will help millions of consumers across the country.” Specifically, they create two classes of signal boosters – consumer and industrial – with distinct regulatory requirements for each. On the consumer end, boosters must meet certain technical specs and users must get permission from their provider.
Genachowski said the rules will help decrease the number of “dead spots” around the country.
“They are a cost-effective means of expanding the reach of our nation’s wireless infrastructure. Individual consumers with no technical expertise can install signal boosters in their homes or in their vehicles,” he said. “Signal boosters can significantly increase coverage in rural areas, as well as dense, urban environments, such as hospitals or office buildings, that can be hard to serve. We’ve already seen benefits that boosters can bring.”
For more from Chloe, follow her on Twitter @ChloeAlbanesius.
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