Today I’m appearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee to testify about the critical importance of the 5 GHz band for the future of Wi-Fi. I’m going to explain how, if the FCC moves ahead with improvements to the rules that apply to this band,Comcast and others can use those frequencies to address the congestion consumers experience on Wi-Fi today.
I will also explain how changes to the 5 GHz band will pave the way for the next generation of Wi-Fi service –called "Gigabit Wi-Fi" because it can deliver speeds up to 1 gigabit per second.
Other countries are moving ahead to promote the deployment of Gigabit Wi-Fi. Our policymakers need to do the same, by changing certain FCC rules so that Wi-Fi will remain a key platform for innovation, investment, and economic growth here in the United States. There is no other frequency band in the U.S. where we can effectively deploy Gigabit Wi-Fi today.
Gigabit Wi-Fi has the potential to deliver tremendous benefits to consumers and businesses – but only if there is sufficient usable unlicensed spectrum to support it. Because of its faster speeds, greater capacity, and advanced capabilities, Gigabit Wi-Fi can handle more users, more devices, and bigger apps. It can also be useful for offloading cellular network traffic. Gigabit is the future of Wi-Fi, and we must make sure we are ready for it.
Here at Comcast, we know how much our customers love Wi-Fi. We offer the fastest in-home Wi-Fi connections compared to our major competitors and we also deliver the fastest outdoor Wi-Fi experience. In addition, we are supplementing customers’ in-home Wi-Fi networks by deploying hundreds of thousands of Wi-Fi access points throughout major portions of our footprint, accessible at no additional charge to qualified customers. Our customers are connecting more frequently, for longer periods of time, and consuming more data over our Wi-Fi network than ever before, and we know that usage is only going to increase.
That’s why we think it is so important that our nation’s spectrum policy accommodate next-generation Wi-Fi. Congress recognized the importance of unlicensed services like Wi-Fi when it passed the Spectrum Act of 2012. The President has also hailed the benefits of unlicensed spectrum and has called for an additional 500 MHz of spectrum to be made available for commercial use. And as new FCC Chairman Wheeler said just last week, "[w]e must make sure that unlicensed spectrum is a key part of whatever set of decisions that we make . . . [because] . . . [u]nlicensed spectrum has been and must continue to be the catalyst for innovation."
We are calling on policymakers to reaffirm the importance of putting spectrum to good use meeting real consumer needs. Some incumbents currently hold rights to use spectrum in the 5 GHz band, but they are either not using it or are using it extremely inefficiently. Given the spectrum crunch affecting Wi-Fi and other spectrum users, this cannot continue. Sharing must be our new norm, and this means all spectrum users must be flexible and design their networks to accommodate sharing – there is no other way to meet growing consumer demand for wireless services. As I will explain in my testimony, we are prepared to work with these incumbents to find win-win solutions so that this vital spectrum can be shared with no harmful interference to their operations in the band.We are particularly encouraged by the testimony of Toyota’s representative at today’s hearing, including his support for sharing spectrum with Wi-Fi and his commitment to help move the process forward by actively engaging with the Wi-Fi community to develop sharing solutions. We will ask Congress to give us all a push to work together.
In my 10 years at Comcast, I’ve witnessed the broadband marketplace evolve as faster speeds and more powerful devices bring Americans amazing online experiences that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Consumer demand for data services continues to grow, both at home and on the go. Wi-Fi has played a key role in meeting the growing demand for mobility and portability. If we make the right choices as a nation, that important role for Wi-Fi will continue to grow without interruption.