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

Say It Is Time to Test Sharing ‘Solutions’ With Band's Licensed Incumbents

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan quartet of House members have urged the Federal Communications Commission to move swiftly to free up 195 Megahertz of spectrum in the 5-Gigahertz band for unlicensed use.

The 5-GHz band is the band cable operators already use to deliver Wi-Fi Internet 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, we believe the FCC should proceed expeditiously with collaborative testing of promising spectrum sharing solutions involving both incumbents and the Wi-Fi industry," the Congress members wrote.

The FCC voted in February to free up the spectrum, part of the Obama administration’s goal of freeing such bandwidth 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, Federal Aviation Administration and automotive collision-avoidance systems that operate 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 devices.

Cable operators, who would like to extend their reach to their more mobile subscriber 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 & 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. Matsui and others introduced a bill last week 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.