Wi-Fi is a wireless networking technology that is familiar to many. Millions of homeowners have installed Wi-Fi networks in their home to access the Internet wirelessly on laptops, tablets, smartphones, and even TVs. Wi-Fi networks are also quite common in coffee shops, airports, and increasingly even on airplanes. As more people buy and use gadgets that connect to the Internet, the demand for Wi-Fi has grown exponentially. So much so, Wi-Fi networks are getting crowded and slower as a result.
The more people using a Wi-Fi network simultaneously, the slower that network becomes, making the Internet experience for all on the network sluggish. Websites load more slowly, email attachments take longer to open, and video viewing can be choppy. As a result, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the federal agency that regulates the country’s communications networks, recently announced an initiative to speed up Wi-Fi.
At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, the largest technology tradeshow in the country, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that the FCC will move to add more capacity to Wi-Fi networks, thus making them faster for all of us. Capacity for Wi-Fi networks (and for all wireless networks) is measured by what we call wireless spectrum. The more spectrum that is available to a wireless technology like Wi-Fi, the more capacity it has, and the faster it can operate.
The FCC regulates how much spectrum wireless networks can use. With this initiative, the FCC will be allocating more spectrum to Wi-Fi network use to the benefit of all of us. This faster Wi-Fi will be called Gigabit Wi-Fi for the technology geeks, or just faster Wi-Fi for the rest of us. It will be significantly faster than the Wi-Fi we know today, even allowing for the wireless streaming of HDTV.
It will take some time for this process to reach the actual marketplace – the FCC’s action will take 9 – 12 months and the new equipment and gadgets that run this new Wi-Fi technology will be readily available in about a year. Until then, we’ll all have to put up with the today’s version, which is still quite acceptable, but getting slower everyday.