The Federal Communications Commission Just voted to usher in the 5G era. FCC unanimously approved an item on Thursday morning meant to bring the next generation of wireless technology to American consumers, making the United States the “first country in the world to make this spectrum available for next generation wireless services.”

The item opens a huge block of spectrum for the use of next-generation wireless broadband, services that are up to 100 times faster than current wireless connections.

Previously, the high-frequency spectrum had only limited uses until recent technological advances. These new rules open up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum for flexible, mobile and fixed use wireless broadband – 3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum.

The agency also established the foundation to auction a large amount of that spectrum to wireless companies while allowing more open or shared uses of the rest. This is all with a view towards duplicating the regulatory environment that helped fuel innovation in the existing fourth-generation networks.

Some of those channels will be licensed by users that wish to utilize them as they develop fifth generation, or 5G, wireless networks.

Commissioners also opened up a broader group of airwaves for unlicensed use, meaning they can be accessed by more than one user without permission from the FCC.

According to experts, 5G is the key to expanded wireless uses, such as autonomous vehicles, Internet-connected appliances, virtual reality and future applications. While 5G technologies are still under development, today’s action by the Commission to put rules in place will provide vital clarity for business investment in this area.

The technology also is seen as crucial to extending high-speed Internet access to rural areas that are expensive to serve with cable or fiber.

According to FCC, the item adopts effective sharing schemes to ensure that diverse users – including federal and non-federal, satellite and terrestrial, and fixed and mobile –can co-exist and expand.

“I do believe that this is one of the, if not the most important, decisions this agency will make this year,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

“By becoming the first nation to identify high band spectrum, the United States is ushering the 5G era of high capacity, high speed, low-latency wireless networks,” he added.