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FCC Proposes to Free More Spectrum for Wireless Broadband

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to make available an additional 255 MHz of spectrum for unlicensed use. If ultimately approved by the FCC, the new rules would increase spectrum availability for wireless broadband use by 80 percent.

An FCC statement said the agency believes that more spectrum would "foster the development of a wide range of new and innovative unlicensed devices and lead to increased wireless broadband access and investment."

The FCC proposal is in response to a January 2002 petition by the WiFi Alliance, formerly the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, asking the FCC to make more spectrum available in the 5 GHz range. The 28-page NPRM was approved by the FCC on May 15 but was not released until Wednesday.

"Our action today furthers twin goals of the Spectrum Policy Task Force: promoting spectrum access and furthering development of unlicensed technologies," said FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell. "Once the backwater of baby monitors and cordless telephones, the unlicensed sector has developed into a hotbed of growth and innovation."

The FCC said the proposed rules were developed in concert with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which administers federal government spectrum, and the US Department of Defense.

The FCC also proposed additional technical requirements for Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) Devices, including transition periods to implement these requirements.

"I support this item because it continues the Commission's effort to promote the development of unlicensed devices and services. The tremendous growth of WiFi in the 2.4 GHz band was facilitated by the licensing, or more appropriately, the 'unlicensing' approach initially adopted by the Commission for this band," said FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein "Our unlicensed service rules allow manufacturers to develop technologies that anyone can use without a license."

Adelstein added, "In proposing to add spectrum in the 5.8 GHz band for unlicensed use, we must continue this regulatory approach so that we encourage as many avenues as possible for broadband and other important services to reach consumers, no matter where they live.

Comments on the NPRM, ET 03-122, will be due 120 days after publication of the in the Federal Register.