FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mike O’Rielly presented a united front in their aim to make available more spectrum for unlicensed use, with Ms. Rosenworcel saying she hoped for action sometime this year to permit more unlicensed use in the upper 5 gigahertz band. Speaking at an event organized by WiFiForward, Ms. Rosenworcel noted earlier efforts to allow unlicensed use in the lower 5 GHz band, and said, “I’d like to keep the momentum going.”
Ms. Rosenworcel said she hopes the FCC conducts a successful auction of 600 megahertz spectrum, but also makes available for unlicensed use spectrum in the guard band as well as in the 5 GHz band. “Good spectrum policy involves licensed and unlicensed spectrum,” she said, citing figures that estimate unlicensed spectrum use has helped create $140 billion of economic activity. “This is a marketplace we should help develop and grow,” she said.
“Wi-Fi experiments we began 30 years ago have been wildly successful,” she said. “That’s something we want to see continue.”
Mr. O’Rielly agreed, saying, “we are going to have to pry open” the 600 MHz band and upper 5 GHz band, and said he looks forward to further talks and efforts in that direction at the FCC. “I think both licensed and unlicensed are important. I’ve spoken with companies who use both and it’s important,” he said. “I do not believe unlicensed is a negative word, I think it’s very healthy for the ecosystem. What I love about unlicensed is that you don’t know what you’re going to get out of it. What people can cobble together with different bands is amazing.”
Wi-Fi proponents such as cable companies have urged the FCC to open the 5850-5925 MHz band to Wi-Fi devices, but connected-vehicle proponents, including those in industry and state government and at the U.S. Department of Transportation, have expressed concern about the potential for interference.
Both Commissioners also expressed confidence in plans for spectrum sharing in the 3.5 GHz band, with Ms. Rosenworcel noting that the FCC’s concept involves protecting incumbents, providing short-term priority use licenses, and allowing sharing in the remainder of the band. Asked when to expect action on such a plan, she replied “soon, I hope.” Mr. O’Rielly said there remained a lot of work to be done in that area, but expressed confidence in eventual success.
Both also said they were keeping their eyes on the progress of Wi-Fi technology and standards-setting processes, although Mr. O’Rielly said he hoped the FCC would not be too involved in the process. “That’s not really the place for government to be,” he said.
Asked what the Commission needed to speed the effort to permit additional unlicensed spectrum use, Ms. Rosenworcel praised the FCC’s current engineering staff but said it needed to be expanded. “More engineering talent in the [FCC] building . . . can do a lot to foster innovation in the marketplace,” she said.
Michael Hurlston, executive vice president-worldwide sales at Broadcom Corp., which makes a variety of Wi-Fi chips, said at today’s event that his company is interested in persuading the federal government to make more unlicensed spectrum available in the 5 GHz band and the 600 MHz band.
“We want to see more of the 5 GHz band open up . . . the FCC is working on that and we are appreciative,” he said. He also applauded Commissioners Rosenworcel and O’Rielly for their work in trying to make available unlicensed spectrum in the 600 MHz band, saying their work has been “very helpful.”
Mr. Hurlston said Broadcom was also concerned that technologies “play fairly” in unlicensed spectrum and not “trample” on others, especially in the provision of voice and video services where low latency rates are important to service quality. “Today, most data is moved wireless, and most of that is Wi-Fi,” Mr. Hurlston said, adding that the company’s survey of U.S. wireless carriers found that about 70% of cellphone traffic travels over unlicensed spectrum.
He also cited estimates that more than 25 billion new connected devices will come on over the next four years, with the “cellular opportunity” representing about five billion of those devices, and the remainder tied to the Internet of things – “the market that we are chasing and that other tech companies are chasing.” – John Curran, email@example.com