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June 14, 2012

Super Wi-Fi: Making the Most of Unused White Space

In 2009, the United States made the inevitable transition to digital TV. Gone were the days of rabbit ears and antennas on the roof – unless you had the right converter box, that is. In the aftermath of the transition, the FCC began to realize that the move to digital TV had inadvertently freed up a very valuable resource: spectrum. But what to do with the white space that was no available? The answer: Super Wi-Fi.

No, it’s not a brand new member of the Avengers, nor is it truly Wi-Fi. Super Wi-Fi (also known as IEEE standard 802.22) is, instead, a low-speed, long-distance form of Internet connectivity. Its applications are numerous. It can be used to bring the Internet to places that are underserved in terms of broadband, areas that have been relying on DSL or dial-up. Even with maximum speeds of 22 Mbps, it is still an improvement. And the signal will travel great distances – up to 62 miles – so it can really reach into remote areas.

Another application of the technology is the creation of “smart cities.” These cities, like the test location of Wilmington, North Carolina, can provide public Internet access in places like parks, and also provide broadband for surveillance cameras.

Of course, the future of Super Wi-Fi will depend greatly on the allocation of this valuable spectrum. “The precedent for spectrum sharing is now being associated with other allocated but not heavily used spectrum allocations,” Carl Ford of Crossfire Media told TMC. “SuperWiFi in the end is a fertile learning ground for all radio frequency technologies.”

The biggest concern with Super Wi-Fi, said Ford, is the handoff between the 802.11 standards and Super Wi-Fi. But, despite this hurdle, Ford is excited about the future of the technology. “Super Wi-Fi has characteristics that could make it a back haul mesh and an extended range solution.  That would be very cool and change some markets that are hard to serve right now.”

Anyone who is interested in more information about this topic should check out the Super Wi-Fi summit, to be held October 3-5 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas. It is collocated with ITEXPO, the world’s largest and best-attended communications and technology trade show. The Super Wi-Fi Summit will cover all aspects of the white spaces market, and feature a number of panel discussions and speakers. For more information on the event, click here.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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