What is White Space Wireless Broadband?

Only a finite amount of broadband wireless frequencies exist, and as the sheer number of wireless hungry devices continues to explode, those frequencies will quickly run out. But there may be a solution to the frequency shortage on the horizon called white space wireless, or super Wi-Fi. While it may not solve all the frequency problems, it will certainly help alleviate the shortage, especially in rural and under populated areas.

What is white space wireless broadband? A simplified explanation is that television station frequencies are licensed and allocated to various local television stations. These frequencies have buffer areas around them to prevent the wireless devices from interfering with other local television stations. These buffer areas are also known as white space. By using special wireless equipment, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can utilize the unused white space frequencies to set up a wireless network. Although this wireless network would not be a true Wi-Fi network, wireless devices could still interact with it in a fashion similar to normal Wi-Fi.

Allowing wireless networks to be set up using the unused white space would especially be a boon for rural areas where it is cost prohibitive to set up traditional hard line broadband. Installing a hard line broadband infrastructure can cost $20,000 or more per mile, which makes it cost prohibitive in rural or other under populated areas. Consequently many ISPs are eager for the opportunity to acquire the ability to set up white space wireless broadband networks. In addition to cost effectiveness, white space wireless networks use frequencies that are very good at penetrating obstructions such as buildings, trees, or mountains that would interrupt traditional wireless broadband.

Originally there was some concern that unlicensed white space wireless devices would interfere with local licensed transmission stations, but a compromise worked out in the United States by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has greatly reduced that initial concern. The FCC has set up a national database that will store the available white space frequencies and their locations. White space wireless devices will send a request to the database with the device’s location. If there is not a conflict with licensed frequencies in the device’s area, then it can use the white space wireless as its network.

In highly populated areas where licensed frequency competition is high, available white space frequencies for use by white space wireless broadband devices would be limited. Consequently white space wireless would probably be of limited usefulness to large city mobile users. However the FCC estimates white space wireless broadband could benefit up to 2 million rural users. Since some of these rural users are still using dialup as their Internet connection, the availability of white space wireless broadband would be a significant upgrade in capabilities.

Many experts believe that opening up white space frequencies to unlicensed wireless networks could result in an explosion of innovation by both small and large technology companies. For example, by using a white space super Wi-Fi network, entire communities could be linked together.

White space broadband technology is still in its infancy, but improvements are quickly being made as governments all over the world begin to open up their white space television frequencies to unlicensed wireless networks. Exciting possibilities exist for both companies and consumers alike. Everyone should expect to hear more about white space wireless broadband in the years ahead.

The author of this article Steve Hogan has moved away from established technologies like this used by services like sky home and introduces us to an innovative new wireless broadband technology know as white space.