Wireless Providers Tap Television “White Space” for next WiFi Upgrade

by Matt Klassen on September 14, 2010

While I have yet to think up a catchy Wi-Fi sounding name for the unused wireless spectrum that sits between TV channels, tech companies are fast producing devices that will utilize what has come to commonly be known as ‘white space.’

The switch from analog television signals to digital ones freed up space on the wireless spectrum, space that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated as a necessary buffer zone used to separate digital signals from each other. But since the birth of digital television, wireless broadband companies have been eager to get their hands on this new frontier of the wireless spectrum in hopes of offering paying customers an advanced Wi-Fi experience.

Until recently the FCC has largely opposed this plan to allow wireless broadband providers to utilize this unused portion of the wireless spectrum, a move that has continued to frustrate companies looking for yet another way to rob you of more of your hard earned money. But with the news that the FCC is now on the verge of approving the use of white space, your Wi-Fi experience may be about to change forever.

If you’re confused by the details of this story, you’re certainly not alone, but hopefully I can break things down for you. In between each licensed portion of the wireless channel used by each television channel you have is, as mentioned, a buffer zone, a completely unused part of wireless broadband that is meant to prevent interference or overlap from different broadcasting stations. Sounds simple enough, right?

Since 2008 the FCC has steadily loosened its grip on this white space, now set to finally allow unlicensed use of it in much the same way that Bluetooth or Wi-Fi currently works. The attraction of this white space, you’ll be happy to know, lies in the fact that it is far more powerful [hear faster] than normal Wi-Fi, offering wireless broadband speeds that rival modern day smartphones.

But even with the FCC set to officially lay down the ground rules of white space usage, there are several other issues that still stand in the way. First and foremost being the fact that available white space on the wireless spectrum is geographically based, meaning that while it will work great for in-home wireless transmissions, the amount of white space available even in the next city over may vary greatly, and thus disrupt your wireless connection.

With that being said, however, you can bet the last of the worries will be whether or not technology can be developed to utilize that unused white space, as the White Space Coalition—whose members included Google, Microsoft, Dell, HP, Intel, and Earthlink—have already begun developing devices in hopes that the FCC would one day come to this conclusion.

So what does this mean for us? If nothing else, if the bugs can be worked out of the system it will mean that we will all soon be enjoying Wi-Fi faster than we could have ever imagined.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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