FCC looks to relieve congestion on Wi-Fi networks

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He said the move would also increase the speed and capacity of Wi-Fi networks in homes with multiple devices using the same network.

The proposal would allocate 195 megahertz of radio spectrum in the 5 gigahertz band for unlicensed use — the largest expansion of unlicensed spectrum since 2003.

That spectrum band will allow for ultra high-speed, ultra high-capacity Wi-Fi, known as "Gigabit W-iFi." The proposal would increase the total amount of available Gigabit Wi-Fi by as much as 35 percent, according to the FCC.

The move will improve users' ability to stream HD video on their devices, Genachowski said.

“When the FCC helped pioneer Wi-Fi nearly thirty years ago — through an innovative spectrum policy that relied on unlicensed use — no one knew the potential it held," Genachowski said. "But that FCC-created platform for innovation gave us cordless phones, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, benefitting consumers and our economy massively. We'll keep nurturing today's Wi-Fi as we also develop a next generation of spectrum policies to drive our mobile future for our innovators and our economy."

But the FCC acknowledged that federal agencies and other groups are already using that band of spectrum, saying the proposal will "require significant collaboration with other federal agencies."

Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro, who interviewed Genachowski at the conference, applauded the announcement.

"The International CES show floor with more than 3,000 exhibitors illustrates how products increasingly rely on Wi-Fi. We need additional spectrum to provide the services Americans need and want," Shapiro said.

Some Republican policymakers have questioned the need for additional unlicensed spectrum. They note that auctioning the rights to the frequencies, rather than allowing any company to use them for free, would raise more money for the federal government.

Unlicensed spectrum also cannot support cellphone networks and other technologies that require dedicated spectrum bands.