COMMISSIONER MIGNON L. CLYBURNRe:
Revision of Part 15 of the Commission’s Rules to Permit Unlicensed National Information
Infrastructure (U-NII) Devices in the 5 GHz Band
Today’s proceeding is just the latest example of smart government policy designed to promote
industry innovation in unlicensed services in order to yield the greatest public benefit. The technical
ingenuity, which ultimately has resulted in the explosive demand for Wi-Fi services, is several decades
old and it is most fitting that, on this last day of Women’s History Month, we are adopting an order to
spur greater use of services that a woman helped to create. Many are familiar with how actress Hedy
Lamarr invented frequency hopping technology in the 1940s. It is more than industry lore; she actually
held a patent on the idea.
The federal government and commercial players eventually realized the benefits of Ms. Lamarr’s
idea, and beginning in the 1980’s in response to petitions from federal agencies and industry, the
Commission started promoting greater use of frequency hopping and spread spectrum in unlicensed
services in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. Those policies together with the evolution of the 802.11 family of
technical standards and Wi-Fi only tablets has resulted in the great consumer demand for Wi-Fi devices
we see today.
Once criticized by licensed wireless providers; unlicensed spectrum is now being heavily used to
off load data traffic. The economists who have studied the area have different estimates, but there is a
consensus that Wi-Fi off load saves wireless companies tens of billions of dollars in network costs each
year. Demand for unlicensed services, has spiked so much that the 2.4 GHz band is now congested
particularly in major cities. We have to be ambitious in finding more ways to provide licensed and
unlicensed spectrum for commercial services.
I commend the staff for working so efficiently to bring us an Order that makes 100 megahertz of
spectrum, in the U-NII-1 band, available for both outdoor and indoor use of unlicensed services. This
was not an easy process. A couple of months ago, advocates for the Wi-Fi and satellite industries seemed
locked into their litigation positions. But thanks to the careful and creative work of Julie Knapp, Aole
Wilkins, Karen Rackley, and other OET experts, we were able to narrow their differences and arrive at
technical rules that both sides approve. Today’s Order also has important device certification and security
rules to prevent the interference that some U-NII devices were causing to federal operations a few years
ago. I look forward to the staff’s efforts to free up an additional 195 megahertz in the U-NII-2 and 4
bands. Thank you.
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