If you've tried to get any serious work done on a public Wi-Fi network at an airport or convention center, you already know there's a problem, and it's one we deal with everyday on the nation's roads -- congestion.
Just as there are too many cars trying to use a limited quantity of pavement, there are too many laptops, smartphones and other devices trying to use a limited amount of spectrum space. The result is that everything slows down, sometimes crawling to a halt.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a plan to break the logjam. It involves a government-wide effort to free up large amounts of unlicensed wireless spectrum.
Under the plan, the FCC will take its first steps next month to unleash up to 195 megahertz of spectrum in the 5 gigahertz band. If successful, the project would increase speeds and alleviate Wi-Fi congestion at major hubs, such as airports, convention centers and large conferences, while also improving Wi-Fi speeds on home networks where multiple devices operate simultaneously.
It would be the largest block of unlicensed spectrum to be made available for expansion of Wi-Fi since 2003.
"We all know the frustration of Wi-Fi congestion at conferences and airports," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show. "Today, the FCC is moving to bring increased speed and capacity to Wi-Fi networks. 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."
"When the FCC helped pioneer Wi-Fi nearly thirty years ago - through an innovative spectrum policy that relied on unlicensed use - no one knew the potential it held. But that FCC-created platform for innovationÂ
gave us cordless phones, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, benefiting consumers and our economy massively. We'll keep nurturing today's Wi-Fi as we also develop a next generation of spectrum policies to drive our mobile future for our innovators and our economy," Genachowski said.
The FCC warned that the effort will require "significant collaboration" with other federal agencies currently using the spectrum.