The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously voted to allow the use of unused airwaves in the broadcast TV spectrum for unlicensed mobile broadband operations. The new technology, referred to as ‘Super Wi-Fi,’ will provide both longer range and greater bandwidth than current Wi-Fi signals. The decision on Thursday involves the biggest block of spectrum space freed up by the Commission in the last two decades.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he expects that opening up networks that employ unused airwaves between TV channels (known as ‘white spaces’) will serve as “a powerful platform for innovation,” and attract billions in industry investment. The agency hopes new wireless devices using the ‘super Wi-Fi’ technology will be developed within a year.
Technology companies say ‘white spaces’ are an ideal spectrum for broadband connections, allowing high capacity signals to travel further and penetrate obstacles, and they are enthusiastic about developing the market.
Michael Dell, Chairman of Dell, Inc. says he believes the new networks could be used to deliver broadband to outlying areas that currently do not have high-speed Internet access. “By opening this broadcast spectrum for Internet use, the commission is helping to unleash a whole new class of mobile wireless broadband services with applications that are nearly limitless,” he said.
Freed up white spaces will be open to all users and do not require a license. The vote therefore calls for the creation of an FCC countrywide database of frequencies used by licensed TV channels and wireless microphone users. Networks and devices would check the database to locate vacant frequencies in the white space spectrum.
The order also mandates setting aside two unused VHF channels for minor users of wireless microphones.