Commission sets stage for ‘Super Wi-Fi’ development

The FCC proposed Feb. 20 to make up to 195MHz of additional spectrum in the 5GHz band available for unlicensed wireless devices.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aims to accelerate the growth of new Wi-Fi technology that provides speeds of 1Gb/s or greater — so-called “Super Wi-Fi” — and reduce congestion often encountered when using existing Wi-Fi hotspots.

“Wi-Fi congestion is a very real and growing problem,” said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski in comments released on the agency’s website. “Like licensed spectrum, demand for unlicensed spectrum threatens to outpace supply. The core challenge is the dramatically increased use of wireless devices, which require spectrum.”

Currently, Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices operate in 555MHz of spectrum in the 5GHz band. U-NII devices are used for short-range, high-speed wireless connections, including Wi-Fi-enabled local area networks and fixed outdoor broadband transceivers used by wireless Internet service providers to connect smartphones, tablets and laptops to the broadband network.

The NPRM proposed modifying certain technical requirements for U-NII devices to ensure they don’t cause harmful interference and can continue to operate in the 5GHz band. The FCC proposal would provide access to additional contiguous spectrum, allowing unlicensed devices to use wider bandwidth channels.

“The short-range propagation characteristics of 5GHz spectrum enable localized reuse with minimal risk of interference,” said FCC commissioner Ajit Pai in comments released on the agency website. “The next-generation Wi-Fi standard, IEEE 802.11ac, will be finalized soon. Manufacturers are already building devices to work on 5GHz spectrum. And enhancing the contiguity and size of the 5GHz blocks contemplated in the item should allow wider channels for higher-bandwidth transmissions.”