NCTA to FCC: Enable More Wi-Fi ASAP

WASHINGTON — Cable last week was trying to light a fire under the government’s effort to let MSOs and others use more of the 5-Gigahertz band to expand unlicensed uses, such as the Wi-Fi hot spots that are the centerpiece of the industry’s mobile broadband play.

Currently fighting that effort is mobile satellite-services company Globalstar, which contends that sharing is not feasible. The two sides have waged a battle of study vs. technical paper, with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association firing the latest salvo last week in the form of a study from CableLabs and the University of Colorado. A followup to an earlier study, it contends that Wi-Fi hot spots and Globalstar can peacefully coexist.

In a letter to a Federal Communications Commission official last week, NCTA senior vice president of law and regulatory policy Rick Chessen urged action, citing a critical need and “dangerously congested” unlicensed resources.

Cable operators also want more unlicensed spectrum from the broadcast incentive auction and elsewhere in the 5-GHz band. Cable has recieved pushback from car manufacturers, who use the band for communications and, potentially, collision-avoidance systems.

How important is Wi-Fi bandwidth? At a Capitol Hill hearing last fall, a Comcast witness said the company’s more than 350,000 Wi-Fi access points represented tens of billions of dollars in economic value.

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.