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NCTA to FCC: More Internet of Things Spectrum Is Critical

woman using IoT device
The NCTA told the FCC that proliferating internet of things devices will require more bandwidth. (Image credit: Oscar Wong/Getty Images)

Cable broadband operators said the Federal Communications Commission needs to free up more spectrum to handle the explosion of internet of things (IoT) devices, including everything from smart thermostats and locks to garage door openers and refrigerators.

The FCC sought comment on the once and future spectrum needs of IoT. NCTA–The Internet & Television Association, which pointed out its members have built some of the nation's largest WiFi networks, said told the agency in comments filed this week that it should work with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to free up spectrum in the 7 GHz and lower 3 GHz bands for unlicensed and shared use. Finding more spectrum is critical to the growth of IoT, NCTA said.

NCTA pointed out that millions of IoT devices attach to its members' networks, in many cases through WiFi services and equipment supplied by those members. WiFi remains central to wired broadband's mobile profile. Just one of NCTA’s members, Charter Communications, estimated almost half a billion IoT devices were connected to just its network, the group said. 

“Even in commercial settings, WiFi is often the go-to IoT network technology,” NCTA said. “For example, DeepBlue, a Comcast Business company, provides managed WiFi solutions to support IoT functionality in hospitality, retail and entertainment venues such as contactless check-in, keyless entry, touchless controls and entertainment, UV disinfecting robots, AR/VR, wearables, smart elevators and lobbies.”

Unlicensed spectrum means IoT innovators don't need to get permission from the government or secure private licenses to grow the sector. “[U]nlicensed spectrum bands have emerged as playgrounds for the experimentation that is critical for continuing development of new wireless innovations, including in IoT,” NCTA said.

It also pointed out that the shared 3.5-GHz Citizens Broadand Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum is starting to be used for IoT and is proving to be a “critical complement” to licensed use.