White Noise about White Space Spectrum

Summary:Yes, it is great that the FCC has given the green light to using "white spaces' spectrum for Wi-Fi style networking, but it's neither "Wi-Fi on Steroids" nor "Super Wi-Fi."

Don't get me wrong. I think it's great that the FCC has approved the use of "white spaces" for wireless networking. But, come on people, it's neither "Wi-Fi on Steroids" nor is it "Super Wi-Fi." Not yet anyway.

Maybe someday it will be, but right now the only thing that's "Super" about it is its range of 30 to 100 kilometers. The speed though-and isn't that what we always end up caring about when it comes to networking-is a rather pedestrian 1.5Mbps (Megabits per second) and 384 Kbps (Kilobits per second).

That presumes, of course, that the ISP behind such a wireless network has the infrastructure in place to support that kind of speed for say a hundred-thousand customers. They might not. One of the big reasons why WiMAX has been so slow to deploy in the U.S. and LTE (Long Term Evolution) is barely out of the starting blocks, is that the ultra-high-speed Internet backbones needed to support them are still being built.

It can be done. In Wilmington, NC, Spectrum Bridge is already delivering white spectrum networking from fiber optic networks to Wi-Fi APs and town users under an experimental license.

Still, white space networking is currently based on IEEE 802.22 Wireless Regional Area Network. It will need to be replaced by a much faster standard before I'll get excited about it.

On the plus side, 802.22 isn't tied to phone companies the way that WiMAX and LTE are. White space networking also has a lot of industry powerhouses behind it, including, far from least, Google. It could end up being the kind of real high-speed bandwidth, say 10Mbps up and down over square miles instead of square yards, that so many of crave. Even in the best case though that won't be for years.

As it is, I think that 802.22 has real possibilities for rural neighborhoods where pigeons are sometimes faster than the local Internet connections. But, "Super?" I don't see "Super." Not yet anyway.

Topics: Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

About

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, aka sjvn, has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the cutting edge, PC operating system; 300bps was a fast Internet connection; WordStar was the state of the art word processor; and we liked it.His work has been published in everything from highly technical publications... Full Bio

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