As we reported in our recent DWT Alert, cable operators and other Wi-Fi service providers are likely to deploy additional broadband network facilities following yesterday’s FCC action to adopt an order setting aside an additional 100 MHz of unlicensed spectrum for Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices operating in the 5150-5250 MHz portion of the 5 GHz U-NII-1 band. This decision is likely to have a significant impact on the rapidly expanding demand for Wi-Fi services, and the deployment of such “small cell” broadband networks, by virtually doubling the amount of unlicensed spectrum available in the 5 GHz band. More broadly, this decision signals the agency’s increasing commitment to expanding access to unlicensed spectrum, and is likely to be emulated in other proceedings such as the pending 3.5 GHz “shared spectrum” proceeding, and the 600 MHz broadcast incentive auction.
The FCC’s decision effectively doubles the amount of bandwidth available in the 5 GHz band and enables gigabit Wi-Fi connections under the 802.11ac standard. Further details will be available when the order is released, but FCC statements indicate that the order reportedly sets forth new rules that will, among other things, eliminate indoor-only use prohibitions on devices operating in this frequency, raise permissible power limits for these devices, and harmonize certain rules with the U-NII-3 band. Additional details about this development are available in our recently-published DWT Alert.