A new era in high-speed wireless dawned Thursday as the Federal Communications Commission approved rules for using “white spaces.” Those are additional spectrums between TV-station transmissions, left over from the digital-to-analog transition made by TV stations, each of which now requires less bandwidth.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the 5-0 vote opens “a new platform for American innovation.” The low-frequency white spaces, like TV signals, can travel farther and have better penetration of walls than normal cellular signals at speeds as high as 20 megabits per second.
‘Wi-Fi on Steroids’
Some observers have described transmission over white spaces as “Wi-Fi on steroids,” and the FCC has described it as “super Wi-Fi.” In fact, there is speculation that the move could mean the end of Wi-Fi hot spots if coverage becomes widespread.
Transmission over the white spaces will not need a FCC license, as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth do not, which could speed the development of new applications and devices. This is the first move to allow unlicensed spectrum in the U.S. in a quarter century.
Studies have indicated that transmission over white spaces could result in more than $7 billion in new business annually, and a variety of major companies — including Microsoft, Motorola, Sprint Nextel, and others — are ready to begin using them. The additional bandwidth could also dramatically improve high-speed wireless coverage in rural areas and spur the development of new industries, including traffic sensors, remote monitoring of homes and appliances, telemedicine and more.
Genachowski has told news media that he expects the first deployments will most likely be broadband wireless networks covering university or corporate campuses.
Although TV stations completed the transition to digital in June 2009, there has been heavy push-back from some industries because of possible interference. The FCC actually voted to allow transmission over white spaces almost two years…