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It’s predicted that there will be more than seven billion new Wi-Fi enabled devices manufactured over the next three years. Many of these won’t resemble the tablets and smartphones now tapping our Wi-Fi hotspots – they’ll be small, single-purpose devices that help us keep tabs on everything from home heating to eggs. But as these new digital devices fill out what’s been dubbed the ‘Internet of Things’, a challenge arises: How do we manage the wireless spectrum needed to cope with these billions upon billions of devices that require near-ubiquitous high-speed Wi-Fi? In other words,
How do we prevent a Wi-Fi spectrum crunch?
In a speech last week, Florida Senator Marco Rubio affirmed the critical Wi-Fi juncture at which we sit, saying, “All you have to do is look around at the devices being used today, the growth projections for data traffic, and the work being done to connect everything around us. The common denominator is spectrum. It is the lifeblood of the greatest innovations occurring today. If we do not make more available, future innovations will go unrealized, and our economy will miss out on the creation of tens, even hundreds of thousands of jobs.” Sen. Rubio’s right. Already, Wi-Fi carries more data than any other Internet technology. With billions of new devices on the way, it’s time to solve this problem before it overwhelms us.
That’s why Sen. Rubio along with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker have introduced a bill to study and subsequently act on taking advantage of more crucially needed unlicensed spectrum – specifically in the 5.9 GHz band. It’s worth noting that 5 GHz spectrum is particularly important for the future of super-fast Wi-Fi. You can read the full press release here.
More than just an effort to identify solutions, Sen. Rubio and Sen. Booker’s bill will serve as clear action plan to properly allocate a finite and increasingly necessary public resource.
In recent months, the FCC has taken some important steps to make the future of super-fast Wi-Fi after studies revealed that new rules permitting greater use of spectrum in the lower 5 Ghz band would not cause harmful interference. This is a good start, but given growing consumer demand and the need for wider spectrum channels to support gigabit speeds, it is equally critical that we press forward to harmonize other parts the 5GHz band where Wi-Fi operations can coexist without causing harmful interference to incumbent users. Sen. Rubio and Sen. Booker’s legislation recognizes that we cannot rest on our laurels, and that to build a gigabit Wi-Fi future, we must roll up our sleeves and press forward in developing solutions that will benefit consumers and maintain U.S. leadership in the unlicensed economy.
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 when everyone has access to more unlicensed spectrum. Students can more easily access a fast broadband connection, new business’ can grow with fewer costs and technological restraints, and the ‘Internet of Things’ can take hold, turning the United States into a truly connected nation. But to do so, we need to secure more unlicensed spectrum and allow innovators to establish a future where fast Wi-Fi is everywhere.