However, most Wi-Fi chipsets are already equipped to use Channel 14, because it costs less to make one chipset for all parts of the world. The difference between the chips in U.S. products and the ones that can use four channels typically is just firmware, according to Farpoint Group analyst Craig Mathias.
To prevent interference between Wi-Fi and Globalstar's satellite service, which would continue operating in the band, the FCC would have to approve the radio emissions of all types of devices that could use the extra channel. "We think that most modern Wi-Fi-capable devices will be able to meet that emissions profile," Globalstar's Ponder said.
Once someone could use Channel 14, the effect would be easy to understand. "You would just see that you would have better Wi-Fi access," Ponder said. But that doesn't mean Channel 14 would be available the same way other Wi-Fi spectrum is.
Because Wi-Fi typically runs on unlicensed spectrum, anyone can make and sell network gear and client devices that use the technology in the U.S. as long as they get their products approved by the FCC. All that gear then has to coexist, sharing the spectrum and accepting interference from other radios.
Globalstar has several ideas for using Channel 14 and is open to more, but all would involve some degree of control. The company proposes to offer the extra channel in conjunction with what it calls a TLPS (terrestrial low-power service). Part of its plan for the TLPS is to set up about 20,000 special access points in hospitals and public and nonprofit schools.
The company hasn't yet decided what else the TLPS would include. Certain approved devices might be able to use TLPS access points whenever they are nearby, with no special effort by the user, Ponder said. Another possible model might be to charge a one-time activation fee for downloading the necessary firmware, according to Ponder.
The company could also offer the extra channel as an added feature for a specific manufacturer or service provider, or to partner with a carrier for an exclusive service at busy events and locations, according to Globalstar. For example, customers of a certain carrier might get exclusive access to Channel 14 at a football game or in an airport, Ponder said.
Globalstar hasn't spelled out its full strategy, but it says the plan has two phases. The TLPS proposal is the first part of its plan and the company expects to get approval for that next year. The second phase, in which it wants approval to use its spectrum for LTE, would unfold later. "It will probably take a little bit longer just because there are more interested parties that are going to be involved," Ponder said. The LTE network would also use another satellite band controlled by Globalstar, and the company would use a partner to build and operate it.
Three services at once