More unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz band will be a long struggle

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just released part of the 5 GHz band, but in Europe a similar process is likely to be a marathon not a sprint.
| PolicyTracker

The FCC has decided that it will change the rules for 100 MHz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band that will allow more extensive use of the band for Wi-Fi. On the other side of the Atlantic, Europe’s Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) has published a blog post on its technical preparations for a similar allocation.

In the blog, the newly appointed chair of the ECC’s working group on frequency management (WGFM) Thomas Weilacher explains the benefits of expanding the Wi-Fi ecosystem in the 5 GHz band. He then goes on to list the numerous and influential incumbent users (all 11 of them) and the reports and studies that are needed before more spectrum can be released.

One of these reports, on compatibility and sharing, is not even expected to be finished until 2016.

For Cisco, the release of more 5 GHz spectrum can probably never happen quickly enough, as can be seen by a recent spat between a company representative and the European Satellite Association (5 GHz incumbents). According to the latest version of the company’s influential predictions, 52 per cent of mobile data will be offloaded through Wi-Fi by 2018. The European Commission estimates at least 71 per cent of mobile data traffic is already offloaded through Wi-Fi.

It is no wonder the Wireless Broadband Alliance says the 2.4 GHz band is currently congested. The Alliance told us the 5 GHz band is currently less congested than the 2.4 GHz, but it is just a matter of time until this changes as more and more devices support the 5 GHz band.

As Weilacher’s blogpost suggests, there is likely to be a long struggle before more of the band can be released for Wi-Fi.  

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