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September 28, 2010 / Matt Gerardi

FCC Opens Up Unused Airwaves To Wireless Broadband, Changes Everything

The FCC approved a proposal last week that will allow wireless frequencies once allotted to television airwaves to be used by wireless broadband products.

After television signals were forced to switch to digital, small bits of the wireless spectrum became available for unlicensed use. This new proposal allows wireless routers to access these “white spaces,” as they’ve come to be called, in between the frequencies used by television channels.

Dubbed “super Wi-Fi,” the new broadband signals would provide enhanced speeds, range and building penetration. It has been reported that using the white spaces of the spectrum can result in Wi-Fi signals with ranges of multiple miles.

Microsoft, a proponent of the plan, has turned its campus into a testing ground for the new technology. Using only two access points, they have been able to blanket their entire Redmond campus with high speed wireless internet. This means Microsoft employees can now ride ride a shuttle bus from one end of the campus to the other, while never experiencing a loss of Wi-Fi connection.

Tech companies – Google, Sprint, HP –  are salivating at the business potential this new technology presents. According to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, Wi-Fi has become a massive industry, raking in four billion dollars annually. He believes super Wi-Fi would reach that point quickly and possibly overtake it.

Super Wi-Fi has benefits beyond creating a new market for wireless broadband applications. It is also essential in the progress of the FCC’s plans to deliver broadband internet to rural areas. Utilizing the obstruction penetrating technology would allow only a handful super Wi-Fi enabled routers to provide entire communities with wireless broadband access. This would make for a massive change in the country’s current broadband penetration problem, which sees rural areas utterly lacking in any sort of high speed internet access.

It will also make for a significant migration of mobile phone users from cellular data networks to the public super Wi-Fi hot spots. This will help to alleviate many of the problems the cell phone companies have been dealing with particularly in urban areas, where cellular data networks have become overcrowded with bandwidth hogging smartphones causing massive network slowdown and reception problems.

Links

Microsoft’s testing – Techflash

A more in depth description of how the technology will work – Tested

A look at the announcement from a mainstream news source – NY Times

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