FCC makes more spectrum unlicensed

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has increased the radio spectrum available for unlicensed devices using wireless networking services, it announced Thursday.

The FCC made an additional 255MHz of spectrum available in the 5.470GHz to 5.725GHz radio frequency band, an increase of 80 percent, it said.

The additional spectrum availability will ensure continued deployment of unlicensed wireless broadband networks, the Commission said in a statement.

The increase in the available spectrum is also significant because it harmonizes the spectrum with Europe and other regions, according to Richard Dineen, an analyst with London-based Ovum Ltd.

"The FCC has responded to proposals put forward at World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-03) in Geneva this summer," Dineen said. "This opens up huge opportunities for economies of scale and makes room for more products and markets using wireless broadband. It's good for everyone, it's all win-win."

The availability of unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi products is crucial for the success of wireless networking products and services, Dineen said. Products using the 802.11a wireless Internet standard in particular stand to gain, he added.

The 802.11a standard defines 54M bps (bits per second) wireless LAN equipment operating in the 5GHz band. The 802.11a standard transfers data at faster rates and with less interference -- but over shorter distances -- than the more commonly used 802.11b networks.

"I believe that 802.11a is a greater solution in the longer term in that it is cleaner, it offers more co-location and has very high bit rates with higher spectrum," Dineen said. The 802.11a standard is well suited for wireless LAN use in corporate environments or in home media networks, he added.

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