FCC set to release more spectrum to feed our need for Wi-Fi

Getting a decent Wi-Fi connection out in the wild is getting harder as the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz airwaves become more crowded, but the Federal Communications Commission is feeling our pain. At CES 2013 Wednesday evening, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said the government is looking to open an additional 195 MHz of 5 GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi use.

That may seem like an enormous amount but keep in mind 555 MHz of 5 GHz and 83.5 MHz of 2.4 GHz spectrum is available for Wi-Fi use in the U.S. today. Still nearly 200 MHz of new pristine airwaves is nothing to scoff at, and it will be needed as Wi-Fi becomes even more ubiquitous in gadgets and as newer wireless networking technologies hunt for ever-bigger blocks of spectrum. It’s the largest allocation of unlicensed spectrum the FCC has made since doubled the capacity of the 5 GHz band in 2003.

“We all know the frustration of Wi-Fi congestion at conferences and airports,” Genachowski said in an FCC statement. “Today, the FCC is moving to bring increased speed and capacity to Wi-Fi networks by increasing the amount of unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi. As this spectrum comes on line, we expect it to relieve congested Wi-Fi networks at major hubs like convention centers and airports. It will also help in homes as tablets and smartphones proliferate and video use rises.”

The FCC will launch a proceeding next month, and while there’s no timeline on when the spectrum might become available, Genachowski said he will “move expeditiously” to work with government agencies to clear the spectrum of its current federal and non-federal users.