Wi-Fi Is About to Get Faster

The FCC freed up more airwaves for wireless networks.

National Journal
Brendan Sasso
See more stories about...
Brendan Sasso
March 31, 2014, 7:46 a.m.

It will soon be easi­er to stream videos and browse the Web on Wi-Fi net­works.

The Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion voted un­an­im­ously Monday to set aside more air­waves for Wi-Fi, a move that will ease con­ges­tion and boost speeds for smart­phones and laptops.

FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er de­scribed the agency’s ac­tion as “spin­ning straw in­to gold.”

“This opens all kinds of new op­por­tun­it­ies for en­tre­pren­eurs and in­nov­at­ors as well as re­liev­ing con­ges­tion,” Wheel­er said. “Faster con­nec­tions, less con­ges­tion all make it easi­er to get on­line.”

Ex­plod­ing wire­less In­ter­net traffic has clogged Wi-Fi net­works in re­cent years and made it dif­fi­cult for people to con­nect to the In­ter­net, es­pe­cially in crowded areas like con­ven­tion cen­ters and air­ports.

Un­der the FCC’s or­der, Wi-Fi routers will have ac­cess to an ad­di­tion­al 100 mega­hertz of spec­trum — the ra­dio fre­quen­cies that carry all wire­less sig­nals. The spec­trum, which is in the 5 giga­hertz band, was be­ing used by the satel­lite phone pro­vider Glob­al­star, but the com­pany agreed to the new rules after the FCC set in­ter­fer­ence stand­ards.

“While that sounds tech­nic­al, this change will have real im­pact,” said Demo­crat­ic FCC Com­mis­sion­er Jes­sica Rosen­wor­cel.

“For starters, if you like Wi-Fi, that is a lot more. Cheers for that. But the power of un­li­censed goes bey­ond on ramps to the In­ter­net and of­f­load­ing for li­censed ser­vices. It is the power of set­ting aside more of our air­waves for ex­per­i­ment and in­nov­a­tion without li­cense. It is bound to yield new and ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ments. It is also bound to be an eco­nom­ic boon.”

Un­li­censed spec­trum can be used by any com­pany for free and powers a vari­ety of tech­no­lo­gies such as baby mon­it­ors and re­mote con­trols. But Wi-Fi ac­counts for the vast ma­jor­ity of traffic that travels over un­li­censed spec­trum and was what spurred the FCC to en­act the new rules.

The FCC’s ac­tion will not help ser­vices like cel­lu­lar net­works that rely on li­censes for ex­clus­ive use of spec­trum. The FCC of­fi­cials said they ex­pect the de­mand for un­li­censed spec­trum to con­tin­ue to ex­plode in the com­ing years as more every­day devices like re­fri­ger­at­ors and ther­mo­stats con­nect to the In­ter­net.

The new rules will be fi­nal­ized once they are pub­lished in the Fed­er­al Re­gister. Device-makers will then be able to start design­ing Wi-Fi routers to use the new fre­quen­cies.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×