FCC will move to give more spectrum to Wi-Fi

The agency will act starting next month to accommodate more users and demand for video

The FCC plans to allocate more unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi to improve performance in crowded public places and in homes, looking to head off a future spectrum crunch.

Wi-Fi users will share that spectrum with the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies, U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced on Wednesday at International CES in Las Vegas. The spectrum will be in the 5GHz band, one of the two bands where Wi-Fi is already used.

The commission will initiate a proceeding at its public meeting next month. There are interference issues to be addressed, but it's important to move quickly, Genachowski said.

"We're moving forward with it, and we're going to work out the problems as we go," Genachowski said. He announced the upcoming move during an onstage event at the show.

Wi-Fi is likely to face a shortage of spectrum that affects performance much like the shortage that Genachowski expects to see in the cellular arena, he said. The new spectrum allocation is intended to prevent that.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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