Your Wi-Fi connection is about to get overloaded...

Wi-Fi Spectrum May Soon Be Overloaded

Have you ever noticed your Internet speeds slowing down when you’re in a crowded office or trying to stream a movie at a peak time like 8 p.m. on a weeknight? You’re likely experiencing Wi-Fi congestion—caused by the huge growth in Wi-Fi traffic around the country.

The World Now Has More Mobile Devices than People

Wi-Fi is everywhere. Cisco predicts that by 2017, Wi-Fi devices will power a majority of all Internet traffic. All of the devices you and your family use every day rely on Wi-Fi—and those demands are only increasing. And with the “Internet of Things,” machines will need more and more of it to communicate with each other. But this growth may mean that getting on the Internet through your Wi-Fi connections will soon be like trying to drive in rush hour traffic on too narrow a road—frustrating and slow-moving.

How Can WifiForward Help?

WifiForward wants to bust this bottleneck by freeing up more airwaves for Wi-Fi, using the “unlicensed” spectrum bands—the parts of public airwaves that are not auctioned off for exclusive use—and by making the most efficient and effective use of the airwaves we already have. We are a group of like-minded companies, organizations and public sector institutions who believe that Wi-Fi is critical to the way we live and work today. Indeed, studies have confirmed that Wi-Fi already contributes close to $100 billion each year to the U.S. economy.

Expanding Access Everywhere

Wi-Fi at Home

Higher Speeds & Broadband Everywhere

In addition to more spectrum for Wi-Fi, emerging technologies can use unlicensed frequencies to deliver cost-effective broadband to places not yet online. Different types of Wi-Fi—from the Wi-Fi you use today to emerging technologies that will enable Gigabit bandwidth or longer range connections—are different tools that make up an impressive Wi-Fi Swiss Army knife for connecting more people and devices to the Internet.

Innovation

Unlicensed spectrum is a platform for innovation. Because it is open for everyone to use, any company, researcher or entrepreneur can bring low-cost wireless products and services to market. The emerging “Internet of Things”—communications among everyday devices outfitted with sensors and wireless control mechanisms that support a variety of applications—is made possible because of relatively low barriers to entry that allow manufacturers of these everyday items to create and experiment.

Consumers

Consumers depend on Wi-Fi for fast and convenient connections to the Internet, and businesses know Wi-Fi is increasingly critical to their bottom lines. From retail stores to hospitals to schools, from hotels and event spaces to transportation hubs and coffee shops—being able to offer superfast wireless connections is more and more critical to our way of doing business.

Solutions

Policymakers in Washington increasingly recognize the importance of Wi-Fi and the need to support its growth. But we must move beyond policy statements and never-ending proceedings to decisive action. Policymakers and regulators should protect Wi-Fi and promote investment and growth through initiatives that strengthen existing Wi-Fi spectrum designations, free up new frequencies for Wi-Fi and establish transparent and predictable rules for Wi-Fi spectrum.

Wi-Fi in the Economy

Higher Speeds & Broadband Everywhere

Technologies that use unlicensed spectrum, like Wi-Fi, make the entire Internet more useful and more valuable by providing more access to more people in more places. Because of this, unlicensed technologies support industries and markets that are growing every day. A recent study estimates that technologies operating in unlicensed spectrum bands in the United States generated a total economic value of $222 billion in 2013 and contributed $6.7 billion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.

Innovation

Computers, tablets and smartphones are the most visible things connected to the Internet. But that’s just the beginning. Today anything with a Wi-Fi chip can connect and communicate with anything else on the network. Many of these items are for sale and ready for use in our homes today—ready to become part of the “Internet of Things.” In addition, small radios called RFID chips are in use across many industries, helping companies track inventory or doctors track surgical tools in a hospital. Whether it’s a new device or application, innovation using Wi-Fi bands has made us more productive and contributed to the growth of the U.S. economy.

Consumers

A new standard for “Gigabit Wi-Fi”—called the 802.11ac standard—can supercharge Wi-Fi connections, offering faster speeds and letting more mobile devices access the Internet at the same time. This will allow many students in multiple classrooms to watch and manipulate video clips—at the same time and without the annoying buffering or dropped signals. Or doctors could collaborate and consult in real-time on complex surgical cases using mobile devices. But it doesn't stop there: hospitals use Wi-Fi-based systems to help them track equipment, staff and patients, monitor temperatures and humidity and track hygiene. And retailers small and large use similar tracking systems to manage their assets and reduce costs for consumers.

Solutions

Unlicensed frequencies for Wi-Fi and other technologies extend the reach of wireline Internet and cellular technologies. And they give consumers more—more choices to get online, more devices and more applications to use. But new business models and new technical standards need the right spectrum. For “Gigabit Wi-Fi” to flourish, for example, the Federal Communications Commission must designate more spectrum in the 5 GHz band for unlicensed use.

Wi-Fi for Cities

Higher Speeds & Broadband Everywhere

More Wi-Fi in cities can make communities more livable by increasing access to services and dramatically improving communication. Using sensors enabled by unlicensed frequencies and Wi-Fi networks, community leaders can improve building management, enable more efficient traffic flow, and develop new ways to provide basic services like water or waste management.

Innovation

Expanding the reach and power of Wi-Fi will allow innovation in our communities that will support advances we’ll all see in our daily lives. Connecting a network of sensors in water systems, environmental monitoring systems, street lights and more, mostly using unlicensed spectrum, will unlock the data and connections community leaders need to improve city services.

Consumers

City and state governments face the ultimate challenge: trying to do more with less every year. Administrations must find ways to cut costs while delivering services to citizens. Whether it’s a school or a library, or a hospital or a fire station, Wi-Fi has already helped to transform the way they work and serve their communities. And the possibilities created by faster, more efficient and more robust Wi-Fi are endless.

Solutions

In the near future, wireless connectivity will be embedded in tens of billions of other devices, systems and objects. Connecting those objects to a network can be cheap and easy using unlicensed frequencies—but the FCC needs to free up more spectrum for Wi-Fi, especially in frequencies where the signals can travel through walls or across terrain. The FCC should also ensure that existing spectrum usable for Wi-Fi is protected or shared. And the FCC needs to establish rules for this spectrum that encourages companies to invest in these innovations.

Wi-Fi for People

Higher Speeds & Broadband Everywhere

Broadband Internet is the dominant communications platform of our day. For many of us, Wi-Fi is an essential part of the way we access the Internet, freeing our devices from cords and allowing us to access information anywhere. We take for granted that it will always work whenever and wherever we need broadband access.

Innovation

The growth of Wi-Fi is an incredible success story. Using unlicensed spectrum, Wi-Fi enhances the quality and lowers the costs of existing broadband products, while allowing a huge diversity of new networks to be built—many in areas where wireline and cellular networks are not available. This growth and diversity of use is an example of how future technologies based on unlicensed spectrum might be used to connect more people to more information.

Consumers

Now that Wi-Fi is integrated into nearly all mobile devices and computers—and available in an increasing share of homes, offices and public places—consumers are actively choosing to use it as a supplement to their cellular network. Studies show that increasing numbers of both individual consumers and business users depend on a combination of Wi-Fi and cellular networks for reasons of both cost and quality.

Solutions

There are several opportunities to bust the Wi-Fi bottleneck. Whether it’s the upcoming TV spectrum auction, or by setting new rules for lightly licensed spectrum, the FCC has an opportunity to deliver real-world benefits to the country: reliable, critical connections to Wi-Fi and super-fast “Gigabit Wi-Fi” to bring us the next generation of technologies; Wi-Fi-enabled homes and businesses delivering the emerging “Internet of Things”; and cost-effective wireless broadband for people in unconnected urban and rural areas.