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Spectrum spread: the FCC butters up both sides

The FCC has voted to expand the WiFi allocation in the 5GHz band by an additional 100MHz, effectively doubling the available spectrum in that band. The allocation should enable 1 Gigabit WiFi speeds.

It also adjusted some indoor-only restrictions on WiFi devices by increasing the allowable power in the 5.15 to 5.25 GHz band, originally put in place to protect satellite operator, Globalstar, which has some adjacent spectrum.

As if to avoid accusations of favouritism in the long-running “licensed/unlicensed which is best?” debate, the agency also announced that it would auction off 65MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband use, claiming that the move would represent the “largest amount of spectrum suitable for mobile broadband that the commission has made available for auction since the 700MHz band was auctioned in 2008.” So no moaning, telcos.

Just to ram the point home, FCC boss Tom Wheeler went out of his way to announce the looming end of that debate. In a metaphor that doesn’t travel too well, the FCC chairman said that licensed and unlicensed spectrum were complementary rather than competitive, since carriers had taken to using WiFi to offload traffic:

“They are less oil and vinegar and more peanut butter and jelly,” he claimed. Outside the US there’d be a real debate as to which of those two comestible combinations was the more desirable.

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