wireless lanA key to ongoing innovation and evolution of a wireless “ecosystem,” unlicensed spectrum generates some $62 billion a year for the U.S. economy, according to a new market research report from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

Offering an easily accessible, low-cost means of making use of radio frequencies, unlicensed spectrum is being used to enable an increasingly wide range of wireless applications, from home and office Wi-Fi networks to home entertainment, security and energy management, CEA highlights in a news release and short YouTube video

“Unlicensed spectrum is essential to keeping us connected and advancing innovation and tech entrepreneurship in the 21st century,” Gary Shapiro, CEA president and CEO, was quoted as saying. “Everyday devices that run on unlicensed spectrum are all around us – garage door openers, home security systems, baby monitors, all the products we have come to rely on that utilize Wi-Fi, and more. Unlicensed spectrum is the fuel that powers innovation in our increasingly digitized, interconnected and untethered world.”

Economic Impact of Unlicensed Spectrum
The cumulative annual growth rate in sales of consumer electronic (CE) devices making the heaviest use of unlicensed spectrum, which include Bluetooth and radio-frequency identification-enabled devices, has been around 30 percent for the ongoing period 2011-2016, according to CEA.

In its “16th Annual Household CE Ownership and Market Potential Study,” CEA found smartphone and tablet ownership to be at all-time highs, with smartphones being used in 64 percent and tablets 45 percent of U.S. homes. Year-over-year growth for both categories of spectrum-enabled devices was six percent .

“We’re seeing an explosion of connected devices that rely almost exclusively on unlicensed spectrum – the Internet of Things – proof of the skyrocketing value of unlicensed spectrum,” Shapiro commented. “As we continue to use more smart, connected devices, we need enough unlicensed spectrum for them to communicate with their surroundings and one other. With this tool, innovators can harness the power of the network to give devices more utility than they could ever have in isolation.”

The FCC in late March freed up 100 MHz of spectrum for gigabit, 802.11ac WiFi or other unlicensed use. In May, FCC Chairman Wheeler announced the adoption of rules governing the Broadcast Television Incentive Auction that will see television broadcasters choose to give up spectrum rights in order to make more available for licensed and unlicensed mobile broadband usage.

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