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Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cox have received approval from the FCC to switch the frequency at which their outdoor Wi-Fi access points operate from a portion of the unlicensed band now in common use to another nearby frequency.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable have each asked for permission to make the change to tens of thousands of access points between them.

Outdoor Wi-Fi access points deployed by cable operators use the U-NII-3 band (5725-5850 MHz). What the MSOs just received from the FCC was permission to use the U-NII-1 band (5150-5250 MHz). That band had been originally designated for indoor use only, and also had certain restrictions to avoid interference with some satellites that use the same spectrum. Some restrictions on power and angle (EIRP) remain to avoid interference issues.

In Comcast’s application to use the spectum, the company said such a waiver would serve the public interest by providing it with immediate flexibility to use the U-NII-1 band, in addition to the U-NII-3 band, to provide outdoor Wi-Fi access to its customers.

The MSOs’ requests to the FCC should be considered formalities, according to sources. The MSOs had a deadline (which recently passed) to apply to the FCC for waivers to make the switch.

And even though the MSOs share a strategy of expanding their Wi-Fi networks, the waivers do not signal imminent Wi-Fi network build-outs.

Addressing Comcast directly, the FCC said, “This waiver applies only to the 20,820 outdoor access points systems at the locations that you identify as being installed in the field as of June 2, 2014, and does not apply to any future deployments.”

Furthermore, as a practical matter, there is little if any commercial equipment available to broadcast Wi-Fi in that band yet, and few if any consumer devices equipped to connect to Wi-Fi signals in the new band.

The waiver makes trials of the technology permissable immediately.

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