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Summary:

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has come under fire from all sides over his and the FCC’s stance on Net Neutrality. But if there is one bright spot, it has been the recent order to free up under-utilized TV spectrum and use it for broadband.

FCC Chairman Julis Genachowski

For FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, it’s been a rough summer. He’s come under fire from all sides over his and the FCC’s stance on net neutrality. We haven’t been shy in unloading on the man either, expecting him to do more than he has and he can. But if there’s one bright spot for the FCC Chairman, it’s been the recent order to free up under-utilized TV spectrum and use it for broadband and other open wireless transmission purposes.

This is the first time in 25 years that the FCC has passed an order that frees up wireless spectrum and makes it available unlicensed for innovation. “Wireless in general is very central to our economic growth,” Chairman Genachowski told me in a phone conversation earlier this month. He believes that wireless and wireless broadband will have a wide-ranging impact on everything from health to entertainment to education. (Related Post: All You Need to Know About White Spaces Broadband.)

“A year ago, no one was talking about the spectrum shortage in this country, and now we are moving toward solving that problem,” said the FCC chairman. According to some estimates, the demand for mobile broadband means that in three years, the current amount of spectrum won’t be enough. The FCC, in its national broadband plan, has asked for 500 Megahertz of new wireless spectrum, of which 300 MHz it wants freed up in the next five years.

The FCC is working on ways to make more licensed spectrum available, he said, but he wants to make a big push on the unlicensed spectrum. “A full spectrum strategy needs both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and I am really happy with this order,” he said. “Twenty-five years ago, when the FCC released spectrum, we didn’t know Wi-Fi [would] happen.” Today, it’s hard to find devices that don’t have Wi-Fi capabilities.

With this superior spectrum, he believes a whole wave of new applications are going to emerge for what some have labeled (for lack of a better word) “Super Wi-Fi.” “This will be a big boost for M2M wireless networks,” Genachowski predicts. “We are hoping that companies will make routers for this ‘Super Wi-Fi’ and get to market fast,” he said.

“M2M will not only have a big impact, but it also has the most potential.” The FCC Chairman pointed to a North Carolina trial using wireless networks for monitoring water resources. We agree; as we saw at Mobilize 2010, the world is gearing up for an era when most devices will have connectivity built into them.

  1. Richard Bennett Monday, October 11, 2010

    Your claim: “This is the first time in 25 years that the FCC has passed an order that frees up wireless spectrum and makes it available unlicensed for innovation” is nowhere close to true. The initial WiFi order was followed up by allocations at 3.8, 5.4 – 5.8, and 60 GHz, not to mention the UWB overlay at 3-10 GHz.

    We’ll see what happens with WS, but it’s unlikely to live up to the hype.

  2. FCC Chairman on the Need for More Wireless Spectrum (and why Unlicensed is part of the Solution) « xG Technology Blog Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    [...] Malik at GigaOm has a post on FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in which he points to the recent order to free up under-utilized TV spectrum as a high point of his [...]

  3. Frank Robinson Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    It is unlikely 300MHz of spectrum will be available in urban markets. Unless the FCC pushes out all the small TV license holders in NYC for instance.

    300MHz will be available in rural Iowa…but not much of a market there to develop WiFi devices… Urban markets are where people live and the “Super-WiFi” market…

    I would look to short range 60Ghz spectrum to be the in-home “super-WiFi” winner.

    I wish reporters would dig further into this and press this issue………..TV White Space in Urban America is a myth under current FCC rules….

  4. With the freeing up of the TV spectrum it brings in new possibilities for small towns and areas to begin offering high speed internet at an affordable rate. I sure hope my home-town begins something like that.

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