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New White Space Wi-Fi Ruling
Could Be a Game Changer
Some are calling it “super Wi-Fi,” or “Wi-Fi on steroids,” but whatever you call it, the recent ruling from the FCC that allows for unlicensed use of the “white space” between TV channels for wireless data service could signal changes for consumers and everyone else providing or using Wi-Fi networks. On September 23’d the FCC, for the first time in over 20 years, gave the go ahead for the public to use a very desirable part of the radio frequency spectrum that should be able to send Wi-Fi signals farther, better, and faster than current implementations.
Farther, Better, Faster
Using the new white space spectrum, Wi-Fi signals will be able to travel many times farther than the 100 – 300 feet that current systems typically get. We’ve heard claims of over a kilometer or even a mile with this new super signal. Wi-Fi transmissions using this spectrum will also be much less susceptible to obstructions, penetrating walls and other barriers much better than current signals. We’ve also read claims of data rates of everything from 20 up to 800 Mbps for white space Wi-Fi but when you factor in capacity vs. coverage we imagine speeds will be closer to 50 -100 Mbps in practice, still impressively fast.
A Dose of Reality
White space Wi-Fi should be fairly straight forward to implement for places like university or corporate campuses where access to towers and pipes to the Internet are not an issue. Microsoft is already trying it out, what they are calling “White Fi”on their campus. Municipalities and public places, on the other hand, might have more difficulty finding a tower to place their antennas on and access to the “pipe” at the bottom of the tower. The carriers are going to give away high speed connectivity that might cut into their 3G business. In other words, who is going to pay for infrastructure for a potentially costly service that consumers are already used to getting for free? On the other hand, Google, with miles of dark fiber in their possession and the resources to create “hot spots” everywhere could start to look more like AT&T and Verizon.
What it Could Mean for You and Your Smartphone
Bigger “tubes” on the Internet could mean a much better experience and wider availability to the Internet. In the home a new white space Wi-Fi router might give you a stronger signal, and better Wi-Fi performance everywhere in the house although the Wi-Fi hardware in your laptop may need to be upgraded.

On corporate campuses or in public places and buildings you might also experience better networking. In some cases you may find using Wi-Fi on your smartphone might be all you need, allowing you to cut back or skip the 3G data plan. The bad news is you may have to buy a new phone with a new radio to handle the new frequencies.

City-wide access could be a different story unless tower owners and providers like the cell phone carriers get into the act, but you know that’s not going to mean free Wi-Fi. It’s too soon to know when we’ll see actual products and services but with the ruling in place we don’t think you’ll have to wait very long for products and services to start appearing.

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Freq

What's the frequency, Kenneth? Does anyone realize that we are talking about a range of frequencies between 54-698 MHz? You can't generalize about how a signal is going to behave, since you are dealing with over three octaves here. By comparison, the 2.4 GHz wifi band is about 1/24th of an octave, or, half the difference between C and C# on the piano. This affects antenna size, field strength, penetration of obstacles, Faraday effects, and much more, including susceptibility to interference from incidental radiators.

The only reason I bring this up is because you state "but when you factor in capacity vs. coverage we imagine speeds will be closer to 50 -100 Mbps in practice." Although you state this is only your imagination, there is some implication that you know what you are talking about, and it looks like you actually don't. It casts doubt on the rest of the... imaginations... in the rest of the article.

Do you guys need someone who understands radio on your editorial staff? You do know that cell phones and wireless devices are radios, don't you?

Imagine that.

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Signal interference?

I wonder what type of channels this runs on. There would need to hundreds, if not thousands of different channels for the White Space to travel across without interfering with everyone elses network signal.

White Space Drawback

One man's whitespace is another man's out-of-town TV reception. It's unlikely that 100% of the whitespace devices will accurately detect a distant TV signal on their frequency. The public wifi devices, mounted on towers as many will be, will probably detect such signals, but others, intended for local use, will detect nothing and start "banging away," stepping on some weak signal that Im receiving with a rooftop antenna.

The FCC has already demonstrated that it doesn't not care about out-of-market reception; here in San Diego, my reception of KABC and KCBS from Los Angeles is ruined by small, low-power TV stations with nearby transmitters. Before they went on the air, I got those stations reliably -- perfect digital pictures almost 100% of the time.

-JM