Super Wifi gets FCC go-ahead

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The Federal Communications Commission has, as expected, released unlicensed spectrum, hoping it will boost the market for wireless internet.

The unanimous decision to sell off the so-called 'white space' should see the widespread introduction of Super Wifi, already being trialled across the country. It is the first significant block of spectrum to be sold off in 20 years, and the FCC says it could generate as much as $7 billion in economic value each year.

"We know from experience that unlicensed spectrum can trigger unexpected but hugely beneficial innovation. For example, years ago, there was a band of low-quality spectrum that was lying fallow.  Nobody could figure out what to do with this so-called 'junk band', so the FCC decided to free it up as unlicensed spectrum," said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. 

"The result was a wave of new technologies – baby monitors, cordless phones, and eventually a real game changer: Wifi. Today, Wifi is a multi-billion industry and an essential part of the mobile ecosystem."

The move was opposed by police and firefighters, who wanted the frequencies reserved for emergency services and broadcasters concerned about interference.

AT&T and Verizon were also unhappy about the proposal - because the spectrum would likely be reserved for smaller carriers, they'd miss out at the trough.

In its decision, the FCC has aimed to appease some of these concerns by ordering that devices will have to be designed in such a way that they don't interfere with broadcast channels or wireless microphones.

Commenting on yesterday's ruling, vice president of communications for the National Association of Broadcasters Dennis Wharton said the NAB was still reviewing the details.

"NAB's overriding goal in this proceeding has been to ensure America's continued interference-free access to high quality news, entertainment and sports provided by free and local television stations," he said.