Fed Spectrum Sharing and Wi-Fi

Commercial wireless carriers have already found spectrum.

As I reported today, President Obama wants all federal agencies to devise plans to share valuable and mission critical spectrum with commercial wireless carriers to support the use of iThings by everyone in the country but me and my dumb phone.

The carriers, though, have already found ready-to-use spectrum -- unlicensed, short range Wi-Fi found at every coffee shop in the country and most homes -- but they don’t tell you that while hitting you with a bill for high speed cellular Wi-Fi service.

This is known as carrier Wi-Fi offload, and a brief post by cellular equipment manufacturer Alcatel-Lucent estimates that 90 percent of tablet computer data traffic is carried over Wi-Fi nodes at some point in the transmission chain.

Seven Networks, a company that provides software to help carriers manage traffic loads, reported that AT&T Wireless handled 2.7 billion smartphone connections over Wi-Fi in 2012.

Based on the above, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration -- which manages federal spectrum -- should examine exactly how much traffic the carriers can offload to Wi-Fi before it decides to share spectrum.