updated 02:24 pm EST, Mon February 4, 2013
Proposal faces stiff resistance from telecommunications lobby
The Federal Communications Commission has proposed the creation of "super Wi-Fi" networks across the US. The networks, in theory would be powerful enough to allow people to access the Internet through them without needing separate coverage via a carrier, has seen a number of parties within the wireless industry lobbying against such a proposal.
The collection of Wi-Fi networks would be more powerful than existing networks, with the signal being strong enough to penetrate concrete walls and cover an extremely large area, according to the Washington Post. The proposal suggests a number of such networks could spread across a metropolitan area or with careful placement, a wide rural area. It is also suggested that such networks would extend from the free Internet access to offer other, non-standard applications, such as inter-vehicle communications between driverless cars.
While both Microsoft and Google are fine with such a proposal going ahead, Internet service providers and cellular networks are not. AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Intel, and Qualcomm have all asked for the FCC to focus on selling spectrum for businesses to use, as opposed to using it itself. As well as the issue of potential interference with TV signals, existing radio networks, and equipment, it would take business away from the usual communications companies. Executive director of communications for Intel, Peter Pitsch, claimed that such a scheme "would be a disincentive to invest in expensive networking equipment and prove users with optimal quality of service."
Despite the possibility of a large number of people using the network for free Internet access and calls, analysts suggest that there would still be a place for traditional telecoms companies. The spectrum bandwidth offered by network providers far outweighs the amount in the proposal, making the free national Wi-Fi proposal ideal for low-bandwidth applications and infrequent Internet users, while those needing a better connection will still turn towards private companies for service.
If fully approved by the FCC, such a plan for national Wi-Fi would take considerable time to put into motion, even without lobbying from critics.
The FCC has previously proposed opening up additional wireless spectrum, currently used by the military, for Wi-Fi use. The opening up of 195MHz in the 5GHz band would allow for lower rates of congestion in dense Wi-Fi environments, something usually found in apartment buildings. It has also challenged Internet providers to create a gigabit Internet community, similar to Google Fiber, in each of the 50 states by 2015.