Computers / News

The FCC Clears the Way for Faster High-Speed Wi-Fi


When the FCC isn't battling Verizon over 'net neutrality, they're voting unanimously to open up 100MHz of the wireless spectrum for unlicensed Wi-Fi use. The 100MHz will come from the lower end of the 5GHz band, previously held by satellite phone companies. It will help alleviate the heavy congestion often found on existing public Wi-Fi networks, such as those at convention centers, stadiums, and airports. Certain public outdoor Wi-Fi networks will also see improvement as well.

The additional 100MHz also paves the way for faster Wi-Fi speeds. Internet service providers, such as Comcast, have already claimed that they could potentially use the additional wireless spectrum to provide Wi-Fi with download speeds of up to 1Gbps. If ISPs can truly provide 1Gbps download speeds in the future, then high-definition video streaming to multiple wireless devices will have minimal to no buffering.

"...high-definition video streaming to multiple wireless devices will have minimal to no buffering."

In order to open up the additional 100MHz of the wireless spectrum, the FCC adopted a Report and Order modifying the rules governing the operation of Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices operating on the 5GHz band. This streamlines existing rules and equipment authorization procedures, as well as increases the utility of the 100MHz of the wireless spectrum.

U-NII devices play an important role in meeting the public demand for Wi-Fi access. U-NII devices currently operate on the 555MHz of the wireless spectrum located on the 5GHz band. Their primary uses are for Wi-Fi and high-speed wireless connections.

The FCC has also removed the current restriction on indoor-only use, and increased the permissible power, which will provide more robust Wi-Fi access in the 5.150 to 5.250GHz band. As a result, this will allow wireless devices to be better integrated with other unlicensed portions of the 5GHz band for faster speeds and reduced congestion.

Of course, there are still some restrictions. The FCC modified the technical rules to improve protection for incumbent systems by requiring manufacturers to secure their devices against illegal modifications, which could cause interference to incumbent users in the band.

With more of the wireless spectrum being opened for unlicensed Wi-Fi use, it will enhance both in-home (depending on your ISP) and public Wi-Fi networks. This could be the first step in the broad release of the unlicensed wireless spectrum of the 5GHz band. Let's hope this trend continues.