Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in favor of expanding the number of frequencies available to unlicensed WiFi networks—from your living room to the airport. The new wireless deal frees up some 100 Megahertz in the 5 Ghz band—about 15% more than was previously available.
While this part of the spectrum has always been unlicensed—free for anyone to use—former regulations prohibited anyone from deploying an outdoor hotspot using these frequencies.
That's because both the Department of Defense (DOD) and Globalstar satellite networks operated in the same space, and there were concerns that private networks could cause interference. The new ruling means city parks and other outdoor gathering spaces are free to use the bandwidth.
The changes are also great news for anyone who's ever yearned for faster WiFi on a public network. The new rules allow for speeds of up to one gigabit per second on 802.11ac devices—a huge improvement over existing caps. The extra bandwidth also helps better accommodate crowded airspace, like kind you run into at busy convention halls and airports.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler pitches the changes as "a big win for American innovators," and goes on to say that the FCC is "committed to making more spectrum available for unlicensed use." That includes up to 195 additional megahertz of spectrum in two other portions of the 5 GHz band.