John Paczkowski

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More Wi-Fi Spectrum on the Way, Says Genachowski


iStockphoto | italianestro

The Federal Communications Commission plans to free up significant additional wireless spectrum in the hopes of averting the dreaded “spectrum crunch” that some fear will degrade Wi-Fi performance across the United States.

Speaking at International CES this week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the agency next month hopes to allocate about 195 megahertz of unlicensed wireless spectrum in the 5 gigahertz band to help increase Wi-Fi speeds and temper congestion in high-usage areas. “We’ve got to get what we can out of every megahertz of spectrum and seize these opportunities,” Genachowski said.

Portions of the spectrum the FCC is looking at are currently being used by the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies, so there may be a few issues to overcome before it’s released. As Genachowski himself conceded, the plan “will require significant collaboration with other federal agencies.” But if it’s pushed through, it could increase available Wi-Fi capacity by about 35 percent.

That’s a significant increase. And while it might not address the coming mobile spectrum crunch entirely, it could do much to solve capacity issues and slower download speeds where Wi-Fi usage is high. After all, it’s the largest block of unlicensed spectrum to be made available for Wi-Fi expansion since 2003.

“As this spectrum comes online, we expect it to relieve congested Wi-Fi networks at major hubs like convention centers and airports,” Genachowski said. “It will also help in homes as tablets and smartphones proliferate and video use rises.”

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