FCC Adding 200 MHz to WiFi Band

Posted by Sam Churchill on

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski today announced the opening a proceeding to clear 195 MHz of new 5 GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi use. The announcement was made on stage this afternoon at CES. The allocation would be the biggest bonanza of new unlicensed airwaves since 2003 and would help bring about new gigabit wireless technologies, notes GigOm.

Currently, some 83.5 MHz of 2.4 GHz spectrum and 555 MHz of 5 GHz is available for Wi-Fi use in the U.S. today. But carriers plan to use much of that “free” spectrum to automatically and seamlessly roam from their licensed cellular networks onto WiFi hotspots installed in coffee shops and taverns without requiring authentication.

Carrier installed “hetnets”, or hetrogenious networks, will be free (for subscribers). They use a phone’s SIM card for authenication with WiFi Hotspot 2.0 technology. Hotspot 2.0 is based on the IEEE 802.11u standard, which is a new set of protocols to enable cellular-like roaming.

“Our objective for 2014 is that we won’t do any small cell or in-building systems that don’t include Wi-Fi,” said John Donovan, VP, AT&T Technology and Network Operations. AT&T will deploy more than 40,000 small cells throughout their service footprint.

Genachowski said it was important to expand the available spectrum for WiFi which was being increasingly used by smartphones and tablets to “offload” cellular data traffic and reduce the stress on mobile networks.

According to the FCC, because the 5 gigahertz band is already used for other purposes by both federal and non-federal users, the effort will require significant collaboration with other federal agencies. Chairman Genachowski committed the Commission to move expeditiously to complete the proceeding.

According to a report by In-Stat Research entitled “Wi-Fi Hotspots: the Mobile Operator’s 3G Offload Alternative,” worldwide hotspot venues are projected to increase to over 1.2 million venues in 2015 from under 421,000 in 2010. Usage will follow similar growth, increasing from four billion connects in 2010 to 120 billion connects by 2015.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Wednesday, January 9th, 2013 at 4:40 pm .

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