In a move aimed at bolstering WiFi connectivity, the Federal Communications Commission Thursday voted unanimously to allow the unlicensed use of a large portion of the airwaves.
“By doing this, we are effectively increasing the amount of mid-band spectrum available for Wi-Fi by almost a factor of five,” FCC Chair Ajit Pai stated.
Specifically, the agency's move will enable companies to offer WiFi on the 1,200 megahertz of bandwidth that makes up the 6 GHz band of spectrum.
“I predict the rules we adopt today will play a major role in the growth of the Internet of Things, connecting appliances, machines, meters, wearables, smart televisions, and other consumer electronics, as well as industrial sensors for manufacturing,” Pai stated. “At the same time, our approach will ensure that incumbents in the 6 GHz band are protected from harmful interference.”
Advocacy group Public Knowledge cheered the FCC's move, stating that unlicensed access to the airwaves “will help close the digital divide by offering home gigabit Wi-Fi internet access in rural areas and other low-income communities.”
But the National Association of Broadcasters warned Thursday that the FCC's move could interfere with local radio and TV broadcasters, which use spectrum in the 6 GHz band for electronic newsgathering.
“Rather than require unlicensed proponents to prove they will not cause harmful interference, the Commission shockingly forgoes any independent analysis that interference won’t be too bad or happen too often,” NAB executive vice president Dennis Wharton stated. “This ‘fingers crossed’ approach is bad policy and not what is required under law.”