FCC Gives a Spectrum Boost to WiFi

by Matt Klassen on February 22, 2013

Over the last several years I’ve written at length about the inability of even our most advanced 4G LTE networks to handle the exponentially increasing data traffic our constantly connected lifestyle generates, forcing everyone in the mobile world to look for other alternatives to help alleviate some of the growing pressure.

For many the quickest and easiest solution to helping ease the burden on data networks is to draw on existing Wi-Fi technology, the problem being, of course, that Wi-Fi is laboriously slow, which is why users turned to 3G and 4G data networks to begin with.

But in an effort to make Wi-Fi truly a viable option as a data network alternative, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) announced that it is taking the first steps, “toward freeing up more wireless spectrum to boost Wi-Fi data speeds and ease congestion on Wi-Fi networks in hotels, airports, and homes.” While the move isn’t world shaking, it’s certainly a move in the right direction, once again making Wi-Fi a legitimate alternative (or support) to mobile data networks.

As CNET’s Marguerite Reardon explains, during its meeting yesterday, “the five-member commission approved a proposal that will allow 195 megahertz of additional wireless spectrum in the 5GHz band to be used for unlicensed Wi-Fi use. This will increase the amount of available unlicensed spectrum by 35 percent.” This is the largest portion of spectrum the FCC has freed up for unlicensed use in over a decade.

For the average user news of the FCC releases additional spectrum to bolster Wi-Fi will mean that eventually they’ll get faster connections at Wi-Fi hotspots, allowing for faster upload and download speeds. Further, the additional spectrum will help alleviate Wi-Fi congestion, particularly in major centres where many people gather.

Again, while nothing revolutionary, this move comes as part of the FCC’s plan to make Wi-Fi a viable alternative, or at least a support, to advanced data networks, allowing for Wi-Fi to carry some of the pressure of these networks. In fact, back in 2010 the FCC began its plan to bolster Wi-Fi by approving the use of TV ‘white space,’ the frequency that existed as a buffer zone between analog television channels. Now with the news that it plans to free up this large 5GHz band for unlicensed use, and we’re finally seeing the FCC’s long term Wi-Fi plan come in to focus.

Not only that, but its clear that in its ongoing attempt for an Open Internet the FCC desires Internet users to have real, viable options for how they access the Internet, taking some of the power away from carriers whose data networks were, until now, the only real choice for reliable and speedy mobile Internet connection.

Strangely enough, it wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about the downsides of using Wi-Fi, stating that, “utilizing Wi-Fi is merely a stopgap solution, a Band-Aid wireless carriers will use for as long as possible to mask the deeper hurts even the most advanced wireless networks are suffering and its one, given the irony that mobile broadband was meant to largely replace Wi-Fi due to the latter’s slow connection speed, that users won’t put up with for long.” But that said, by freeing up more spectrum dedicated to unlicensed Wi-Fi, the FCC may have actually done something useful for once, shoring up the one glaring weakness of Wi-Fi.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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