NCTA to FCC: Enable More Wi-Fi ASAP

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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.

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