TWC Research Report: Enormous Need For WiFi Spectrum

A report from Time Warner Cable's Research Program on Digital Communications says that to meet the need for mobile device connectivity — specifically Wi-Fi — requires an "enormous" increase in licensed and unlicensed spectrum.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, of which TWC is a member, has been pushing the FCC to open up plenty of unlicensed wireless when it reclaims spectrum from broadcasters in the incentive auction, as well as to free up more in the 5 GHz band already used by cable operators for hundreds of thousands of Wi-Fi hot spots.

The report, "Solving the Spectrum Crunch: Unlicensed Spectrum on a High-Fiber Diet," is from the New America Foundation's Michael Calabrese and concludes that "Unleashing an abundance of spectrum and driving down its cost as an input for all things mobile is therefore the single best means by which the Federal government can promote innovation and consumer welfare in wireless."

Cable operators are particularly eager for unlicensed spectrum to meet their Wi-Fi centric strategy for serving their increasingly mobile fixed broadband customers. Last year, TWC teamed with Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Comcast, and Cox Communications to allow their subs to access each other's Wi-Fi hot spots outside their home markets.

Unlicensed can also be used to offload increasingly congested wireless data traffic, the report points out.

It makes three recommendations:

  1. The FCC's incentive spectrum auction should free up at least 30-40 MHZ of spectrum for unlicensed use in every market, including using channel 37 and the two channels that have been reserved for wireless microphones.
  2. The government needs to open underutilized government spectrum for unlicensed use.
  3. The FCC needs to move quickly on its proposal to expand use of the 5 GHz band and loosen some restrictions on its use, subject to interference protections.
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.