Unlicensed Bandwidth and IP driving the next generation of wireless networks
While most people are aware of WiFi technology and it’s growth, fewer are aware of the growing amount of unlicensed bandwidth available around the world and the migration to an end to end IP architecture in wireless networks . Both of these trends along with wireless routing technology are significantly driving down the cost of delivering a wireless data bit which is needed for truly ubiquitous wireless broadband data.In addition to the 80 MHz of unlicensed 2.4GHz bandwidth available around most of the world there is a growing amount of unlicensed 5 GHz bandwidth being made available around the world. In the US we currently have 325 MHz of unlicensed 5GHz bandwidth and just recently the FCC opened another 255 MHz in the 5470 -5725 MHz band with its Report and Order FCC 03-287 for a total of 580 MHz unlicensed bandwidth in the US. In Europe, ETSI standard EN 301 893 V1.2.3  harmonized unlicensed devices operating in the 5150 – 5350 MHz and 5470 – 5725 MHz frequency bands across the European union. This 100’s of megahertz of unlicensed bandwidth is the foundation for delivering cost effective wireless broadband data. The cellular voice networks were built upon 5 and 10 MHz chunks of licensed spectrum. Wireless broadband data users want 10 times or more data than a voice user driving the requirement for 100’s of megahertz of bandwidth in the next generation of wireless networks. In the past, tier 1 service providers have been reluctant to use unlicensed bandwidth but they are now realizing that they need to incorporate unlicensed bands into their strategy if they want to remain competitive with the new emerging challengers. The combination of licensed WiMax and unlicensed WiFi is good example this next generation of end to end IP wireless network that will allow wireless networks to deliver both the QOS of the licensed bands with the capacity of the unlicensed bandwidths. Interestingly in the next generation of high speed high capacity IP wireless networks it may will be that voice is a free low bandwidth feature.