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FCC Chairman reveals plans to free up more WiFi spectrum


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LIVE FROM CES 2013: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has outlined plans to free up unlicensed WiFi spectrum in the US in an effort to tackle what he called “the WiFi traffic jam.”

The head of the US regulator announced the objective in a conference session in Las Vegas this afternoon, stating that the goal is to increase the amount of 5GHz spectrum for WiFi by 35 percent.  “We need to increase WiFi speeds and relieve congestion,” he commented, adding that the plan will help fulfil an objective to offer gigabit-speed WiFi technology.

Outlining the rationale behind the move, Genachowski said: “We all know about the mobile spectrum crunch but there’s also a WiFi traffic jam. And so we’re announcing that we are moving to free up a substantial amount of spectrum for WiFi to relieve WiFi congestion and improve WiFi speeds. This is an exciting new initiative for us and important because we run the risk of running into the same problems with WiFi as mobile.”

Chairman Genachowski said that the FCC will take the first steps next month to unleash up to 195 megahertz of spectrum in the 5GHz band. This would be the largest block of unlicensed spectrum to be made available for expansion of WiFi since 2003. “WiFi is such an integral part of our broadband ecosystem we have to make sure we pay sufficient attention to it,” he added.

Moderator Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, opened his debate with Genachowski by labelling the FCC Chair the ‘spectrum champion’, in recognition of his success in this area during his three-and-a-half year tenure. Asked what he believed are the biggest issues he is likely to face in the next few years, Genachoswki highlighted the need to ensure strong competition in the US mobile space and maintain Internet freedom.

He closed off the session responding to an audience question focused on his future career plans. “I don’t have any plans for it to change,” he said. “It’s such a privilege to do this job.”

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