5GHz Wi-Fi getting more capacity


A government agency has announced a significant increase in the amount of unlicensed spectrum available for high-speed WiFi. But it may be some time before the average user sees the benefits.

The announcement came today at the Consumer Electronics Show from Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. He says the commission has taken the decision in principle to expand the spectrum available in the 5 gigahertz band by 195 megahertz, a one-third increase. That’s said to be the biggest release of unlicensed spectrum in the past decade.

5 GHz wavelengths aren’t inherently any better than the more commonly used 2.4 GHz in terms of data transfer, but they do have two practical benefits. Firstly, there’s much less other equipment using the frequencies, so less chance of interference. Secondly, the simple fact that fewer people use 5 GHz for Wi-Fi means there are usually fewer problems, particular in areas with a lot of wireless networks.

Genachowski noted that both government and other sources already use some of the frequencies in question, meaning there’ll need to be “significant collaboration” to turn them into a free-for-all. He “committed the Commission to move expeditiously to complete the proceeding.”

Of course, even once the frequencies are available, you’ll need 5GHz compatible equipment in both your device and the router. That’s not a problem at home, but if the changes are to have any affect at conferences, airport lounges and other public places, those offering Wi-Fi will have to get new equipment in many cases.

(Image credit: Netgear)

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