House Members Urge FCC to Move on 5 GHz Wi-Fi

A bipartisan quartet of House members has urged the FCC to
move swiftly to free up 195 MHz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band for unlicensed
use. That is the band cable operators already use to deliver Wi-Fi hotspots to
their customers on the go.

That request came in a letter to FCC acting chairwoman Mignon
Clyburn from Reps. Anna Eshoo and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)
and Bob Latta (R-Ohio).

"Given the immediate economic and consumer benefits of
expanding Wi-Fi in the 5 GHz band," they wrote, "we believe the FCC
should proceed expeditiously with collaborative testing of promising spectrum
sharing solutions involving both incumbents and the Wi-Fi industry."

TheFCC voted back in February to free up the spectrum as part of the Obama
Administration goal of freeing spectrum for advanced uses. The commission will
have to find a way to free up the spectrum for unlicensed Wi-Fi use while not
interfering with military, FAA and automotive collision-avoidance systems
operating in the band.

"Government and industry must work together in
developing spectrum-sharing solutions," they wrote.

FCC Office of Engineering and Technology head Julie Knapp
has estimated that freeing up the additional spectrum will increase the current
Wi-Fi allocation in the band by 35% and streamline certification of Wi-Fi

Cable operators, who would like to extend their reach to
their more mobile sub base, are all for the move as well. "More extensive
use of the 5 GHz band, along with additional unlicensed spectrum in other
bands, will permit cable companies and other innovators to continue to provide
Americans with new benefits, businesses with new opportunities, and those in
need with life-saving connections," the National Cable and
Telecommunications Association said when the FCC first voted the item.

The FCC this week also proposed rules for auctioning
spectrum in the so-called AWS-3 band, which includes sharing the 1755-1780
block of spectrum with federal users if clearing is infeasible. That, too, is
an effort to free up more spectrum for advanced services.

The FCC already has commercial spectrum that can
be paired with that block for auction. Abill was introduced last week from Matsui and others that would require the
FCC to pair the 1755-1780 MHz band with that 2155-2180 MHz of commercial
spectrum and auction it for potential wireless broadband use, though the bill
would allow for government users to share the spectrum in geographic areas
where clearing the band would threaten military capability.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.