Genachowski Says Wi-Fi Spectrum to Get 195 MHz Boost

At CES FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced a major effort to increase Wi-Fi speeds and alleviate Wi-Fi congestion at popular locations and in homes with multiple devices and users.

Speaking at the 2013 International CES, Genachowski said the FCC will take the first steps next month to unleash up to 195 MHz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band.

“We all know the frustration of Wi-Fi congestion at conferences and airports,” said Genachowski. “Today, the FCC is moving to bring increased speed and capacity to Wi-Fi networks by increasing the amount of unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi. As this spectrum comes on line, we expect it to relieve congested Wi-Fi networks at major hubs like convention centers and airports. It will also help in homes as tablets and smartphones proliferate and video use rises.

“When the FCC helped pioneer Wi-Fi nearly 30 years ago--through an innovative spectrum policy that relied on unlicensed use--no one knew the potential it held. But that FCC-created platform for innovation gave us cordless phones, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, benefiting consumers and our economy massively. We'll keep nurturing today's Wi-Fi as we also develop a next generation of spectrum policies to drive our mobile future for our innovators and our economy.”

The spectrum Genachowski has in mind is currently used for other purposes by both federal and non-federal users, and as a result, will require significant collaboration with other federal agencies. Some of the existing 5 GHz Wi-Fi spectrum is shared with radars. The Wi-Fi devices are supposed to listen for radar signals before transmitting on a channel, but there have been several cases of interference to radars in New York City, Miami and Salt Lake City. In the last two, the interference affected air traffic control radars. The limited range of 5 GHz signals indoors should reduce the chance of interference between 5 GHz Wi-Fi systems with indoor-only antennas.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.