In Washington D.C. yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted some new technical rules in the area of white spaces — the unused spectrum between broadcast television channels — that many hope will lead to a so-called “Super Wi-Fi” or “Wi-Fi on steroids.”
The FCC’s decision was a big win for companies like Microsoft and Google that have been pushing to take advantage of these white spaces in order to bring faster, more powerful wireless broadband to the United States.
Google, one of the biggest advocates in this space, has a post on its Public Policy Blog where it says “[yesterday's] order finally sets the stage for the next generation of wireless technologies to emerge, and is an important victory for Internet users across the country.”
The idea behind Super Wi-Fi is basically the same as how Wi-Fi currently works, only taken to the next level. Wi-Fi was originally born out of some unused areas of bandwidth that the FCC decided to open up as unlicensed spectrum.
Super Wi-Fi would likewise used unlicensed spectrum, but focus on the now unused television frequencies that operate between 54-698 MHz. These frequencies are no no longer in use, thanks to the June 2009 digital television transition.
Google, Microsoft, Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, Samsung and Earthlink are all part of the White Spaces Coalition that has been working to lobby the FCC and Congress to set policies that will make moving forward in this space more tenable.
Companies like Microsoft and Google have been performing tests using white spaces in various locations for quote some time, so with any luck, yesterday’s decision will mean we should see major mass-market consumer products that take advantage of the new unlicensed spectrum within the next few years.
That means that we might not be that far off from 80 Mbps and above long-range wireless speeds and 400-800 Mbps short-range wireless networks. Perhaps this means that wireless Internet can now actually be “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”