FCC Eyes New Spectrum For Wi-Fi-Type Service

Bob Brewin | Nextgov | November 4, 2013

The Federal Communications Commission has kicked off a process to determine whether or not Globalstar Inc., which provides satellite phone service, can use a portion of its spectrum to offer terrestrial Wi-Fi-type service in the United States.

Globalstar wants to combine its licensed spectrum with a slice of the upper end of the unlicensed 2.4 Ghz Wi-Fi band currently not used in the United States. Tests last spring in Silicon Valley and the Boston area showed the new service has five times the range and four times the throughput capacity of standard, unlicensed Wi-Fi, according to Globalstar. Unlicensed Wi-Fi has a range of about 150 feet indoors, 300 feet outdoors and a throughput of 54 megabits per second.

Globalstar is licensed to operate from 2483.5-2495 MHz, which overlaps with Wi-Fi channel 14 at 2473-2495 MHz. The company wants to use both bands for its new service. Though Wi-Fi only accounts for a thin slice of total spectrum, based on data compiled by Cisco Systems Inc., in 2012, 33 percent of mobile data was off-loaded to Wi-Fi, and by 2017, up to 46 percent of mobile data traffic will be carried by unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum, not spectrum licensed to cellular carriers, the FCC said...