How important is Wi-Fi these days? Well, try taking away someone’s Wi-Fi for just a few hours, and you’ll find out. But here’s the difference between Wi-Fi and nearly everything else wireless: It belongs to all of us.
That’s because the radio spectrum used for Wi-Fi is free for anyone to use. Now – regardless of what mobile industry lobbyists may tell you, Wi-Fi works and will continue to be the cornerstone of Internet access for decades to come.
According to SaveOurWiFi.org, Wi-Fi contributes $200 billion in economic value to the US economy alone every year. That’s without costing a cent in license fees or royalties. How did this happen? We owe a lot to a couple of brilliant folks who – about 25 years ago – set the airwaves free and got to work on creating a wireless tech for everybody.
Today, Wi-Fi is everywhere. The evolution of Wi-Fi has been more explosive than any other technology out there. And it’s not only about Europe & the US, of course. In Latin America, India, and across the emerging world: For many people, mobile is luxury. But Wi-Fi is a necessity.
So the big question is where we go from here. Setting ‘junk bands’ free for unlicensed use was an experiment that started 25 years ago. The results is a revolution in how we access the Internet.
Would it make sense then to make more radio spectrum available for everyone and anyone to use? I think yes. In fact, I believe – like the water we drink and the air we breathe – that radio spectrum belongs to humanity, not to companies.
25 years of Wi-Fi proves that spectrum can be shared and doesn’t need to be reserved for billion-dollar companies to purchase. Now, we’re of course not going to start sharing more spectrum just like that. Our systems of regulation are deeply entrenched. But we do need to start looking at how to make more unlicensed spectrum available.
It’s a question of priorities – and here are the choices we have: Carry on as we’ve always done. Or set more airwaves free for the benefit of people everywhere creating another massive economic surplus.
And remember this: There is no shortage of technology. We can share spectrum very efficiently if we want to. But we will need to want to do it.