Super Wi-Fi, the solution for the broadband
Currently around 7 million households in the United States, representing about 14 million people, don’t have access to broadband that meets the “National Broadband Availability Target” of at least 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload.
Currently around 7 million households in the United States, representing about 14 million people, don’t have access to broadband that meets the “National Broadband Availability Target” of at least 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. Most of these “unserved” households are located in rural areas. Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) have been offering a solution to allow broadband access in areas not covered by cable or DSL. However, the technology used is limited and the service is still not accessible to everyone.
After the digital transition was completed in the US during 2009, the frequencies previously used for analog television broadcast were suddenly vacant. The unused spectrum between TV stations, called white spaces, was made available by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2010, driving the development of the wireless networking proposal of “Super Wi-Fi.” Different from the regular Wi-Fi solution, which uses 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz radio frequencies and has a short range, Super Wi-Fi uses UHF signals that penetrate several types of physical barriers and are able to travel several miles.
The FCC believes that the combination of rural WISPs and TV White Spaces could be the right mix of service provider and technology to reach the unserved households. For this purpose, the FCC announced the public testing of the first television white spaces database on September 14, 2011, allowing the trial of a wide range of TV band devices and applications on an unlicensed basis. This database system is provided by Spectrum Bridge and specifies a list of channels available for testing (not occupied by authorized radio services) by device type and by location.
Some companies have been working on Super Wi-Fi solutions and conducting trials for over a year. Carlson Wireless Technologies Inc., a provider of wireless broadband and voice solutions, has developed a TV white space broadband radio, called RuralConnect IP, that uses UHF frequency bands of 470-786 MHz, has a range of 7 miles, and is able to deliver speeds up to 16 Mb/s. This solution is more than sufficient to meet a household’s basic broadband needs. Carlson CEO Jim Carlson stated “TV white space broadband radio is the best solution to cover obstructed locations and unserved areas desperate for broadband access.” Carlson also indicated that the TV white space broadband radio has a wide range of applications which include the use with IP video surveillance, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications for the resource industry (oil, gas and mining) and for energy management (power energy, smart metering, etc.). Carlson expects to ship 30 thousand units during 2012, both in the US and internationally.
TV white space is a cost-effective way for WISPs to grow the potential households they can reach with broadband. The FCC’s plan of making broadband accessible to the rural unserved can be accomplished with Super Wi-Fi. The technology is there and proven solutions are already available, it’s now up to the WISPs to deploy them.