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FCC does wireless spectrum shuffle

The communications agency is adopting new leasing rules and working to expand the wireless spectrum for communications.

The Federal Communications Commission is taking steps to make more efficient use of the available wireless spectrum and to open up more for communications.

The agency said it is responding to a dramatic increase in demand for wireless spectrum, which has come about as a result of explosive growth in wireless communications technologies and demand for services.

In its late Thursday announcement, the FCC said it's working to allow spectrum in the 5GHz band to be leased for a variety of wireless radio services, such as cellular and networking. It is also attempting to improve the process of transferring licenses. Most parties with exclusive rights to assigned spectrum that they are not using or don't need will be allowed to freely lease it to prospective users.

The rules would apply to mobile or fixed services, including cellular, personal communications services, specialized mobile radio, local multipoint distribution service, fixed microwave and others.

In a release, the agency referred to the rules as a "landmark step" in allowing the market to take a more active role in using and developing wireless products and services.

The FCC and political figures in Washington have been encouraging the development of wireless technologies, looking at it as another means--along with cable and digital subscriber line (DSL)--of delivering high-speed connectivity to the masses. Earlier this year, Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and George Allen, R-Va., proposed the Jumpstart Broadband Act, which would allocate additional radio spectrum for unlicensed use by wireless broadband devices.

The senators are looking to encourage the development of wireless broadband technology and create a mode of access that is less expensive and easier to install than existing offerings. They believe such a technology would improve the use and distribution of information, which could help produce more jobs, increase productivity, improve health care delivery and make education more accessible in rural areas where broadband access is tough to install.

The bill proposes the use of an additional 255MHz of contiguous spectrum in the 5GHz band.

In related news, the FCC proposed Friday to make spectrum available in the 5.470GHz to 5.725GHz band. The move would increase the amount of available spectrum for use in unlicensed devices in the 5GHz band by 80 percent.