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Providing Homes for Wireless Orphans…

February 21, 2013

File this under, “interesting, and potentially full of people whining,” as soon as the real plans come out on who has to give up the spectrum…

The FCC voted unanimously to open 195 megahertz of extra spectrum in the 5 GHz band for use with accredited equipment, but also to allow some of the increasing amount of data traffic on cellular networks to be offloaded onto Wi-Fi. The move should help increase the availability and usefulness of both Wi-Fi and phone networks, and the agency says it wants to move quickly on the plan.

“Because the 5GHz band is already used for other purposes by both federal and non-federal users, the effort will require significant consultation with stakeholders to enable non-interfering shared use of the spectrum,” said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. “But consultation can’t be an excuse for inaction or delay.”

5GHz is currently the home of some of the newer wireless standards, and the higher frequency enables a much broader array of devices to link at a given time.  Note that the real reason the FCC wants to do this is to provide space for buildings to offer wireless connections to their wired infrastructure, so that cellular bandwidth is freed up.

This sets up an interesting battle… service providers (i.e telephone companies) have been pretty open to letting devices run on unlicensed spectrum in order to keep data bandwidth available.  But that’s money going out of their pockets in some ways.  There are a variety of issues with a phone trying to switch in mid-flight from one network to another, and this is especially true when the networks are provided by two separate entities.  I’d expect a large push on the technology enabling here in the coming year or so, and that’s something to watch to see who wins.

I hope that this works, though.  The whole hand-off protocol is something that has been holding back the industry for a few years now.

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