Today there are over 200,000 cable Wi-Fi hotspots. They’re hidden in and around cities, among telephone poles and streetlights, and they’re delivering broadband to our ever-growing collection of Internet connected devices. But because there are so many devices, many utilizing bandwidth-hungry applications, Wi-Fi resources are becoming dangerously congested. Publicly available Wi-Fi is struggling to keep up with demand.
The solution is access to additional spectrum. Wi-Fi is critical to economic growth and innovation and the new “Gigabit Wi-Fi” standard can only offer Americans gigabit speeds if the FCC makes available 160-MHz-wide channels on which it depends. Fortunately, the FCC is on the verge of opening the 5.1 GHz band (U-NII-1) to outdoor Wi-Fi, moving us substantially closer to President Obama’s commitment to find 500 MHz of new broadband spectrum.
At present, the only objection to rule changes that would permit more effective Wi-Fi use of the U-NII-1 band has come from Globalstar, an incumbent user of UNII-1 frequencies who asserts that sharing with Wi-Fi is infeasible. But according to a new study from researchers at CableLabs and the University of Colorado, interference based on valid Wi-Fi system characteristics will not cause harmful interference. It also provided the FCC with a second, more intensive type of interference study, which again confirmed this conclusion.
The study goes on to explain that Globalstar uses the 100 MHz-wide band for only four U.S. feeder links serving 85,000 duplex customers. With such light traffic, Globalstar’s system can share with Wi-Fi without any customer impact. There is no reason for the FCC to delay action in changing rules to permit a wider sharing of frequencies in the U-NII-1 band with current and next generation Wi-Fi devices.
As a country, we have the opportunity to establish ourselves as a global leader in public Wi-Fi availability, speed, and scale. The possibilities are practically endless if we are willing to work together in common purpose. With the analysis provided in the new study, the FCC should be able to move expeditiously to resolve remaining issues and to render a decision that will speed the development of next generation Wi-Fi.