WASHINGTON Feb 20 U.S. regulators on Wednesday
proposed to free up certain slices of airwaves in an ongoing
effort to tackle the shortage of available wireless spectrum, a
move that could ease wi-fi congestion in airports and other
The Federal Communications Commission's proposal would open
up for public use some of the airwaves now largely used by
government entities, including the Department of Defense and the
Federal Aviation Administration, for navigation, surveillance
and other activities.
The proposed rule would add 195 MHz of unlicensed spectrum
to the 555 MHz currently available in the less-congested 5 GHz
radio frequency band. The proposal also seeks better technical
rules for sharing of spectrum - airwaves used to transmit
wireless signals - by federal, commercial and private users.
A government review of the 5 GHz band last year raised
concerns about risks of interference posed by such shared use of
the spectrum and called for more testing, which could last
through 2014, to ensure no federal missions would be hurt.
The FCC's move also raised red flags in the auto industry,
which worries about interference with new technology such as
self-driving cars and systems that help avoid accidents.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he did not foresee the
need to backtrack on sharing of the requested frequencies and
hoped that the current users and the FCC could consult and come
up with a solution.
"This proposal today is based on a tremendous amount of
engineering work," he said. "So we don't now see any reason why
we can't put 195 new megahertz of spectrum for unlicensed use on
the market and do it in a way that's compatible with other
President Barack Obama has directed the FCC and its
counterpart overseeing government-used airwaves, the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration, to greatly
expand the commercial use of the government-controlled spectrum
over the next decade.
A rising number of devices and programs rely on such
connections, and the FCC and the telecommunications industry
have warned of a looming shortage that could hurt the quality,
speed and coverage of U.S. data connection services.
The FCC will now collect comments for the plan. Analysts
forecast implementation would take months given the concerns,
reiterated in a Tuesday letter from the NTIA, that wider use of
the new airwaves risks interfering with important government
programs already on those wavelengths.
FCC officials said the goal was particularly to boost
wireless connections at stadiums, airports, convention centers
and other places where large numbers of people try to use the
Internet at the same time.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by David Gregorio)