There are billions of connected devices worldwide. Everything from baby monitors to cameras to TVs and tablets depend on unlicensed spectrum and are feeding off of the wireless connections in homes, cafes, and public parks. One of the most popular uses of unlicensed spectrum is Wi-Fi.

But we didn’t get here overnight.

In the mid 1990s, the innovators who first started exploring the possibility of using unlicensed spectrum to connect devices had no idea how popular, or how fundamentally important, wireless Internet would become. In fact, the spectrum allocated for unlicensed use was originally thought to be “garbage” and usable for only for non-critical uses like garage door openers.
Fast forward to today where smartphone, tablet and laptop computer applications require data stream rates many orders of magnitude larger than those a decade ago. Wi-Fi hotspots are rapidly becoming congested and in some cases, difficult to access. With over 200,000 publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots across America, cable is supporting the consumer appetite for constant connectivity. But is it enough?

The most likely solution will come from finding more unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi. More spectrum will also permit providers to deploy next-generation Wi-Fi with speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second. But the most promising spectrum, in the 5Ghz band, is currently broken up into small, unconnected blocks, with restrictions that make them unusable for Wi-Fi. For the future of Wi-Fi to come to fruition, these pieces need to be freed for Wi-Fi. Doing so could create clouds of affordable, accessible, fast wireless broadband across major metropolitan areas.
Today, broadband companies are working to remove existing spectrum restrictions so consumers and businesses can take advantage of next generation Wi-Fi. And in doing so, will help to establish the United States as the global leader in public Wi-Fi availability, speed, and scale.