It is difficult for any radio service to thrive without sympathetic officials at the FCC. There are two ways the commission can provide aid, more spectrum and less regulation. Small-cell technology benefited from initiatives in both areas in 2013.
In February, the FCC took action to increase WiFi network speeds and reduce congestion through a new spectrum allocation. The first steps to reallocate up to 195 megahertz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band were take in what will be the largest block of unlicensed spectrum to be made available for WiFi since 2003.
Spectrum Allocation to Ease Wi-Fi Congestion
Then-FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski cited congestion at major hubs, such as airports, convention centers and large conference gatherings as the driver for the additional frequencies. The allocation increases the unlicensed spectrum available for next generation gigabit Wi-Fi, which will use the IEEE-developed 802.11ac standard.
WVU Site of Nation’s First Campus ‘Super Wi-Fi’ network
In July, West Virginia University became the first university in the United States to use vacant broadcast TV channels, known as TV white spaces at the FCC, to provide the campus and nearby areas with wireless broadband Internet service, known as Super WiFi. The commission finalized rules to make the unused spectrum in the TV bands available for unlicensed broadband wireless devices in 2010.
The Super WiFi pilot project was the result of a partnership between WVU and the Advanced Internet Regions (AIR.U) consortium, which consists of the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation, Google, Microsoft, and organizations that represent 500 universities.
FCC Proposes Streamlining Small Cell, DAS Deployments
In October, the FCC released a broadband deployment proceeding, which proposes to speed up the deployment of DAS and small cells through an exemption from the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The proceeding shows that the commission believes the technologies align with its spectrum management goals.
“The increasing demand for advanced wireless services and greater wireless bandwidth is driving a need for additional infrastructure deployment and new infrastructure technologies. To meet localized needs for coverage or increased capacity in outdoor and indoor environments, many wireless providers are turning in part to small cell technologies and DAS,” the FCC wrote in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. “Because these cells are significantly smaller in coverage area than traditional macrocells, networks that incorporate small cell technology can take advantage of greater re-use of scarce wireless frequencies, thus greatly increasing spectral efficiency and data capacity within the network footprint.”