Higher Speeds and Broadband Everywhere
Technologies that use unlicensed spectrum, like Wi-Fi, make the entire Internet more useful and more valuable by providing more access to more people in more places. Because of this, unlicensed technologies support industries and markets that are growing every day. A recent study estimates that technologies operating in unlicensed spectrum bands in the United States generated a total economic value of $222 billion in 2013 and contributed $6.7 billion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
Computers, tablets and smartphones are the most visible things connected to the Internet. But that’s just the beginning. Today anything with a Wi-Fi chip can connect and communicate with anything else on the network. Many of these items are for sale and ready for use in our homes today—ready to become part of the “Internet of Things.” In addition, small radios called RFID chips are in use across many industries, helping companies track inventory or doctors track surgical tools in a hospital. Whether it’s a new device or application, innovation using Wi-Fi bands has made us more productive and contributed to the growth of the U.S. economy.
A new standard for “Gigabit Wi-Fi”—called the 802.11ac standard—can supercharge Wi-Fi connections, offering faster speeds and letting more mobile devices access the Internet at the same time. This will allow many students in multiple classrooms to watch and manipulate video clips—at the same time and without the annoying buffering or dropped signals. Or doctors could collaborate and consult in real-time on complex surgical cases using mobile devices. But it doesn't stop there: hospitals use Wi-Fi-based systems to help them track equipment, staff and patients, monitor temperatures and humidity and track hygiene. And retailers small and large use similar tracking systems to manage their assets and reduce costs for consumers.
Unlicensed frequencies for Wi-Fi and other technologies extend the reach of wireline Internet and cellular technologies. And they give consumers more—more choices to get online, more devices and more applications to use. But new business models and new technical standards need the right spectrum. For “Gigabit Wi-Fi” to flourish, for example, the Federal Communications Commission must designate more spectrum in the 5 GHz band for unlicensed use.