FCC opens up 'super Wi-Fi' spectrum

The Federal Communications Commission gives green light to 'white space' - unused parts of the broadcast spectrum - for expanded Wi-Fi, opening up opportunities for new applications.

The Federal Communications Commission has just approved the opening up of so-called "white space" -- the unused edges of the broadcast spectrum -- for beefed-up Wi-Fi. The FCC's green light opens up opportunities for new products and applications that will take advantage of the increased Wi-Fi range.

Broadband signals sent via the white-space spectrum can travel longer distances and penetrate walls and other barriers more effectively than existing WiFi.  The airwaves were made available when TV broadcasters switched from analog to digital transmissions last year. Internet.com's Kenneth Corbin reports how FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski referred to the white-space broadband capabilities "super Wi-Fi," similar to Google co-founder Larry Page's description to it as "Wi-Fi on steroids."

The FCC's order calls for establishment of a national database with information on usage of the broadcast spectrum in each market. "White-space devices will be required to come equipped with geo-location capabilities and check in with the database every 24 hours to ensure that they are operating in a vacant spectrum channel," says Corbin.

Fast Company's Ariel Schwartz provides a glimpse into potential new applications of super Wi-Fi: Wireless hotspots could be giant wireless signal fields for starters. Then, there is the potential to wirelessly connect vehicles "so that they can alert drivers to traffic jams." There are also applications for the smart grid, sending data "from smart electric meters to utilities via white spaces." A pilot project is already underway at Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative & Telecommunication.

(Illustration: National Science Foundation)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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