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FCC Boosts Spectrum Available To Wi-Fi 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the greased-lightning dept.
bbsguru (586178) writes "Wi-Fi networks will soon be improving thanks to a vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today. The FCC voted unanimously to open 100 MHz of wireless spectrum in an unlicensed 5GHz block . The move will increase the number of frequencies available to unlicensed wireless networks (such as those set up through Wi-Fi routers) by nearly 15 percent, and in turn, allow them to handle a greater level of traffic at higher speeds. 'Today's action represents the largest amount of spectrum suitable for mobile broadband that the Commission has made available for auction since the 700MHz band was auctioned in 2008,' the FCC wrote in a statement. 'Access to these bands will help wireless companies meet growing consumer demand for mobile data by enabling faster wireless speeds and more capacity.' The increased spectrum should mean that Wi-Fi networks will be less congested, and next-gen routers will be able to take better advantage of gigabit broadband speeds that are cropping up all over the country."
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FCC Boosts Spectrum Available To Wi-Fi

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  • Spectrum Frequency (Score:5, Informative)

    by Goetterdaemmerung (140496) on Monday March 31, 2014 @06:22PM (#46626099)

    The newly available spectrum is 5150-5250 MHz.

    • by msauve (701917)
      Thanks for that, since neither of the linked articles bothered to provide any meaningful details, just "this is more better!"

      One of them implied that this was somehow provided for outdoor ISP use - any clarification on that? Is this available for everyone indoors, but limited when used outdoors, or ???
    • As long as they stay out of the Amateur microwave bands... they can have all they want (self interest).

      However, this release of spectrum is not nearly enough to mitigate the problems found in urban areas. The bands need to be widened a lot more.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        I just wish they would get off their butts and figure out how to compress the data better so they can be more narrowband in the existing spectrum.
        Honestly, Wifi is allowed to be awfully wasteful with the bandwidth it has.

        • Compressing the H264 most people are pulling down over it? Not going to happen. Unless you mean upping the symbol rate (think that's the right term) for more efficient coding. In which case, well, we're still being pretty damn efficient.

          • by morgauxo (974071)

            Wouldn't increasing the symbol rate also increase the bandwidth used? Or are you sugesting a different kind of modulation too? In that case isn't it the different modulation that is saving the bandwidth, not the increasing of the symbol rate?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Yes.

              What the GP probably means is increasing the constellation size. But increasing the constellation size requires a better SNR in the channel, which typically means increasing power, for example, to go from QAM256 to QAM1024, (8 bits/symbols to 10bits/symbol) requires 3dB better SNR, which in turn means doubling the transmit power, or somehow reducing the channel noise floor, for example, by using higher gain receive side antenna, or a lower noise detector.

              Of course, the best advance we have made is MIMO,

              • MIMO is a great technology, but it has two problems.

                First is that there is a lot of equipment that is too small to implement MIMO (think phones, iPods and other, similarly-sized devices) because there is not enough room to put the requisite multiple antennas in place at a sufficient distance from each other to do the job. This may be curable with another advance in technology, but we don't have this one yet.

                Second is the large amount of equipment in which it just isn't being implemented. Look at the shelv

              • "...requires 3dB better SNR, which in turn means doubling the transmit power..."

                Or using better antennas.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I'm not sure how you can say wifi is "awfully wasteful" with a straight face. Ignoring MIMO (which can double or triple the spectral efficiency), 802.11n achieves 3.61 bits/second/Hz which is right on par with other consumer wireless standards. The real-world efficiency is lower due to packet overheads and SNR, but that's going to be the case with any standard you settle on. Is there room for improvement? Certainly. 802.11ac will use bandwidth even more efficiently than 'n', though because people care more

          • by timeOday (582209)

            I'm not sure how you can say wifi is "awfully wasteful" with a straight face. Ignoring MIMO (which can double or triple the spectral efficiency), 802.11n achieves 3.61 bits/second/Hz which is right on par with other consumer wireless standards.

            N is new and good. So the only way to do what the GP suggests is forcing older, less efficient devices off the air. [slashdot.org] "Cash for clunker APs!" or something. I'm not saying whether that's a great idea - but this new spectrum allocation adds 15%, whereas 802.11b is

            • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

              Fortunately 802.11b doesn't support 5GHz so there is no chance of it slowing down devices operating in that band. 802.11a is pretty rare.

              Hopefully 802.11n was designed well enough to not screw up faster protocols as they become available. I get good speed from 802.11ac but there are no other APs on those channels near me.

        • by morgauxo (974071) on Monday March 31, 2014 @09:31PM (#46627315)

          Personally my favorite way to increase efficiency has been around a long time... ETHERNET!! Don't get me wrong, I use WiFi for things that NEED WiFi (ChromeCast, laptops carried to strange places, visiting friends that want to use their Sprint (shitty network) smartphones, etc...). But.. for stationary things that can do ethernet... it's no contest, ethernet for the win!! With a little creativity you CAN find a place to run the cable and it IS worth it!

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            2.4GHz is so bad where I live that even opening web pages on 2.4GHz often fails. Ethernet isn't an option for tablets and phones (okay, USB dongles exist, but no).

            I used to periodically clear 2.4GHz channels for my own use by encouraging other APs to switch away. These days all channels are so bad that spamming one doesn't make it that much worse than the others and the auto-channel-selection code doesn't seem to bother changing any more. I have to put everything I want to use on 5GHz.

        • by surd1618 (1878068)
          Nothing (that we know of) short of utilizing polarization (which is basically impossible) is going to much increase the data transmitted across a given spectrum. Can someone put this in information-theory-ese?
      • by morgauxo (974071)

        That's the first thing I was looking for too, I wanted to see the frequency range to see if it was an amateur band. This time it isn't (thankfully?). On the other hand, how much activity is there on the microwave amateur bands? Maybe sharing it (with the part 15 services on a secondary basis) would make it less attractive to comercial interests that might take away our access completely? I don't know. Just a thought.

        • by EmagGeek (574360)

          Ham radio is already non-primary on 5GHz. In fact it is tertiary use on 5.15-5.25. There are two other services that take priority. Amateur is also secondary on every other 5GHz allocation it has.

      • by eclectro (227083)

        So they didn't whack ham radio for this? I'm really glad they did not. I have not been able to follow it as much as I would like.

    • by RoadKill (9645)

      Why is this touted as "newly available"? This is not new spectrum, just loosened restrictions on usage. The FCC notice on their web site says that a restriction was removed on indoor use only and increased power is available. I just checked and my consumer-grade wifi router is using 5200MHz right now.

  • WiFi was a huge success. We do need more channels, and bandwidth for growth.

  • My thought on reading the above was more along the lines that we could really, really use more channels in the 2.4Ghz area. I've never seen an area saturated with 5Ghz signals, and it still takes fairly intensive shopping to find wireless devices and equipment that are capable of 5Ghz operation at all.

    I mean, last time I helped somebody set up wireless in a dormatory it was last year and a cursory scan revealed 22 2.4Ghz wireless networks within range of my phone to ID them, and ONE 5Ghz. Of course, said

    • by rasmusbr (2186518) on Monday March 31, 2014 @07:13PM (#46626523)

      One reason why you've never seen an area saturated with 5 GHz signals is that they don't penetrate walls and other obstacles as easily as 2.4 GHz signals. This is either good or bad depending on what you want to achieve, but having more spectrum is never bad!

      • I know that 5Ghz doesn't penetrate walls as well as 2.4, but it still does and even 'bounces' better so it's a bit of a mix-up. Still, I know the penetration capability of 5Ghz from my home, so if it was at all common in my area*, I'd expect to see 5-6, even if at low signal strength.

        As for more spectrum not being bad, I agree with you, which is why I tried to phrase it that extra channels at 2.4Ghz would be more useful than more at 5Ghz.

        BTW, just did a quick check - only 20% of tablets sold at Newegg are

      • by skids (119237)

        You don't have to have an especially powerful signal to be able to see other devices. The occasional lucky packet will bounce around "just right" and leak through enough to see the device. So if GP said he didn't see many devices, it's because there just plain weren't many devices.

        That said, even with the cheap vendors not putting dual-band in their crap devices, we're seeing a good number of devices in our dorms that are 5GHz capable. Enough to improve life significantly for everyone still stuck on 2.4

      • by evilviper (135110)

        One reason why you've never seen an area saturated with 5 GHz signals is that they don't penetrate walls and other obstacles as easily as 2.4 GHz signals.

        The difference certainly exists, but it is actually very small, and this element gets horribly overblown.

        Most people don't really use WiFi signals going through their walls and floors, anyhow (thin, interior doors notwithstanding). Instead, they use the diffraction down corridors, through windows, etc., and both frequencies can easily manage that...

        I've d

        • by rasmusbr (2186518)

          Well, I guess the idea behind making 5GHz routers is that higher frequencies will give you better data rates all other things being equal if you are in a typical office environment where there aren't a lot of thick walls.

          The really interesting thing would be to do a test where you'd switch all the routers in an office building (or apartment block) from 2.4 to 5 GHz and look at the effect on interference. You could probably predict it pretty well by measuring how two adjacent routers in adjacent offices or a

          • by evilviper (135110)

            Your first line is nonsense... A given bandwidth (eg. 6MHz channel) will give you the same throughput, whether it's at 700Mhz or 50GHz. People see higher frequencies as faster, only because there's usually a lot more bandwidth available at higher frequencies, in part because pentration is lower and reuse is higher.

            • by rasmusbr (2186518)

              Your first line is nonsense... A given bandwidth (eg. 6MHz channel) will give you the same throughput, whether it's at 700Mhz or 50GHz. People see higher frequencies as faster, only because there's usually a lot more bandwidth available at higher frequencies, in part because pentration is lower and reuse is higher.

              Well, there's more bandwidth at higher frequencies, relatively speaking, precisely because the frequencies are higher. For example between 100 and 110 MHz there is 10MHz of bandwidth. Between 1000 and 1100 MHz there is 100MHz of bandwidth. Between 5 and 5.5 GHz there is 500MHz of bandwidth.

              If we make a simplified assumtion as assume that we're going to regulate that a fixed percentage (say 10%) of bandwidth throughout the spectrum will be available for general public use then the vast majority of the bandwi

              • by evilviper (135110)

                I fail to see how your word-games here are anything but arbitrary...

                For example between 100 and 110 MHz there is 10MHz of bandwidth. Between 1000 and 1100 MHz there is 100MHz of bandwidth.

                Yes, but you just picked a couple numbers arbitrarily, with no particular significance. Between 100 and 200MHz, there's 100MHz of bandwidth, just like 1000 to 1100MHz.

                Between 5 and 5.5 GHz there is 500MHz of bandwidth.

                And? The US TV broadcast band starts at 50MHz, and has several hundred MHz of bandwidth as well.

                If we ma

                • by rasmusbr (2186518)

                  The spectrum is always limited by currently available technology.

                  Since the spectrum at any given point in time is finite it's a limited resource that needs to be managed. A common sense principle would be to release some fixed fraction A of the currently technologically feasible spectrum for general short-range/low power use, with bands spread out fairly evenly all the way from the bottom end to the top end. Then the bandwidth of one of these bands will be roughly proportional to A*f where f is a frequency

        • I am going to call BS on this. My access point does both and once you get beyond about 2 walls worth of penatration the 5 GHz signal is notably down from the 2.4 GHz.
          • by evilviper (135110)

            Arguing out of ignorance and anecdotes is never a good idea...

            Go look up a chart or other hard numbers on the penetration of various frequencies in whatever wall material, and get back to us...

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday March 31, 2014 @07:26PM (#46626609) Homepage

    Open up 5 more channels at the top end of the 2.4ghz.. They use them in the EU (and in my home.... bite me FCC) to give everyone a lot more room instead of suffering with the 3 useable ones we have here.

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      Only channel 14 and up is restricted by law. And if you are running part 15, I don't think anybody will care unless you are causing harmful interference and refuse to stop. But I think you will find more space in the 5 GHz band if you run a Japan setup.

      Chances are, if anybody cares and the FCC happens to drive by due to a complaint. They will either knock on your door, send you a letter or both and ask you to quit. They tend to try for voluntary compliance before they bring out the threatening letters an

    • by bobjr94 (1120555)
      They should have opened more channels 10 years ago and yes, they need more on the 2.4 band as well.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Believe me, as someone who lives in Europe from time to time it won't really help. You will have a couple of years where old devices are not using those channels before they get saturated too.

  • by flatulus (260854) on Tuesday April 01, 2014 @12:41AM (#46628083)

    I'd like to take a moment to memorialize a pioneer in this pursuit that probably none of you ever heard of. The name is Jim Lovette. Jim worked with me at Apple in the early 90's. He was a heart-and-soul devotee to the democratization of RF bandwidth for high speed data communications. With Jim's leadership, Apple drafted a petition to the FCC, known as Data-PCS. This was a proposal to allocate spectrum in the U.S. exclusively for use in data communications (as opposed to "voice only" which was the vogue at the time). The Data-PCS petition caused a lot of excitement, but did not result in anything earthshaking as an outcome. Still it started a movement of which this latest step is a grand one in the pursuit of "computing devices talking to each other" being equally important to "people talking to each other." Jim (and our team) were also early promoters of wireless LAN, which we all know today as WiFi. The IEEE 802.11 committee had just formed. Apple's early foray into wireless LAN preceded the availability of IEEE 802.11 (aka WiFi) products, and never made it to market. Apple chose instead to introduce their first wireless LAN products as 802.11b (11 Mbit/sec) WiFi. And over 20 years later, look what it has become?

    Jim passed away in 2002, leaving us with a legacy of which few outside the cloistered Wireless LAN industry would even know he contributed so much. Thank you, Jim.

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