FCC Begins Process to Increase Wi-Fi Frequencies

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began proceedings Wednesday afternoon that could ultimately result in doubling the available spectrum for high speed wireless local networks. In a process that will take more than a year, the agency launched a Notice of Inquiry concerning the possibility of permitting unlicensed transmitters to operate in additional frequencies below 900 MHz and in the 3 GHz band.

Known as Wi-Fi or 802.11, wireless networks provide connectivity up to approximately 300 feet and are considered ideal for home and office use. In the last year, the popularity of these networks has shown strong growth and, in turn, demand for spectrum space for the networks has increased.

Just last week, tech bellwethers AT&T , Intel and IBM pooled their resources behind a new company that will offer wholesale nationwide wireless Internet access. The company, Cometa Networks — backed by investment concerns Apax Partners and 3i — will leverage its backers’ technology to sell services to telcos, ISPS, cable operators and wireless carriers, which will then be able to offer their customers broadband wireless Internet access.

The FCC inquiry will focus on the ability of Wi-Fi networks to function in unused frequencies occupied by television and radio stations and other wireless consumer devices. Emerging Wi-Fi devices are being designed to search out unused frequencies.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell has long supported a broadband policy that would promote high speed Internet access competition between telephone, cable, satellite and wireless providers.

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