Tech giants including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook are lobbying the FCC to allocate 1,200 MHz of spectrum on the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi, meaning that they will be able to use it for free, without a license. An auction for spectrum usage could generate billions for the government.
The radio spectrum, (usually shortened to “spectrum”) refers to the range of frequencies used to transmit data over the air. Spectrum is separated into “bands,” e.g 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. As CNET explains:
The easiest way to understand what spectrum really is and how it provides services is to look at your radio. When you tune your radio to 93.9 FM, you are tuning into a station that is broadcasting at 93.9 megahertz. If you want to a listen to a different station, like one that only plays country music or jazz, you turn the dial to another frequency like 104.7 FM. And a different radio station will be transmitting over that particular frequency on a different setting on your radio dial. No two stations transmit over the same spectrum at the same time in the same area, because if they did, they’d cause interference with one another.
Because spectrum is a limited resource, its allocation is regulated by the FCC. Big tech companies have been lobbying the FCC to allocate 1,200 MHz of spectrum on the 6GHz band to Wi-Fi, an unlicensed service, meaning they will be able to use it for free.
In the past, when the FCC has auctioned off licenses for spectrum usage, it has brought billions of dollars into the U.S. Treasury. The mmWave auction earlier this year, for example, brought in $7.5 billion. Some analysts estimate that an FCC auction of another category of spectrum, C-band, could generate up to $60 billion in revenue.
The tech giants pushing for unlicensed usage of the 6 GHz baned (including Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, HP, Qualcomm, Intel, and Broadcom) argue that newer devices like VR headsets need fast Wi-Fi connections to take advantage of 5G speeds, and that allocating the 1,200 MHz to Wi-Fi will help them do that.
Critics of the proposal say that allocating the spectrum to Wi-Fi could interfere with licensed services, like electric utilities and railroads, that already use the band.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.