1.28.2020 3:00 AM

Tech

FCC has unlocked a new band of spectrum that will improve your data speeds

Many recent smartphones can take advantage.

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The FCC has freed up wireless spectrum in the 3.5 GHz frequency, which should improve reception and data speeds on your smartphone. Existing phones including the iPhone 11, Pixel 4, and Galaxy S10 are already compatible with the band.

The 3.5 GHz frequency is said to offer long-distance range, and there’s a lot of it around the country. Today’s unlock essentially means there’s more bandwidth to go around, and your data speeds will be fast even if you’re reasonably far from one of these towers.

Wireless spectrum is complicated — Freeing up bandwidth can be difficult because much of this “favorable” spectrum is already set aside for military applications. The issue of finite spectrum is being exacerbated as more internet-connected devices come online — especially with 5G on the horizon, which is expected to create new experiences like automobiles that are persistently connected to the internet.

The FCC occasionally auctions off spectrum that has become available, but that doesn’t happen often and the auctions themselves can be contentious. Right now satellite companies are threatening to sue the FCC over its plans to auction off spectrum that they have been squatting on.

Sharing is caring — Even though much of the 3.5 GHz spectrum is already allocated to the military, the FCC says they found a compromise: should the Department of Defense decide they need to use the spectrum, such as in emergency situations, there will be a switch that can be activated that will quietly re-route civilians to other spectrum.

That sharing agreement means the spectrum won’t go to waste when the government doesn’t need it, and everyday citizens will get immediate access to faster speeds.

For some reason the new band is being branded as “OnGo,” so look out for an onslaught of marketing from the major carriers once they bring it online.