The Federal Communications Commission voted Wednesday to free up more spectrum for Wi-Fi. In a bipartisan effort, the five commissioners voted unanimously to allocate spectrum for Wi-Fi usage in what’s known as the 5.9GHz band of spectrum.
The spectrum in this band will be used for unlicensed indoor use to help improve speeds and reduce congestion on 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. For more than two decades the spectrum has been set aside for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications using a technology known as Dedicated Short-Range Communications.
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As part of the order, the FCC will allocate the lower 45MHz of the spectrum for Wi-Fi. There will also be a sliver of spectrum dedicated for another vehicle communication technology called C-V2X, which is supported by chipmaker Qualcomm and the automobile industry.
While all FCC commissioners were in agreement in reallocating the spectrum for unlicensed broadband use, the vote has not been without controversy. The US Department of Transportation has opposed the reallocation of spectrum.
But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has repeatedly stated that the DSRC technology has been slow to evolve and has never been widely deployed. He has argued that freeing up a good portion of the spectrum for Wi-Fi is necessary, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when more people are using broadband to do remote schooling and virtual work.
“Today, at long last, we say in a unified, bipartisan voice: Time’s up,” Pai said.
In April, the agency voted to unlock a massive amount of bandwidth for next-gen Wi-Fi devices, quadrupling the amount of spectrum available for unlicensed use.
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