The Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved last week the use of unlicensed parts of the broadcast television spectrum that could enhance wireless networks across the United States.
The unlicensed airspace, which sits between TV channels on the spectrum and is called “white space,” uses a lower frequency than traditional Wi-Fi, which means it can travel both farther and faster, and can penetrate walls. White space technology’s capabilities have led some to dub it “Super Wi-Fi” or “Wi-Fi on steroids,” in the words of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
FCC approval marks the first time in more than 20 years that the commission has opened up unlicensed spectrum use.
The last time FCC did so was to approve the technology that made cordless phones and wireless garage door openers possible, according to an article in The Washington Post. That technology also laid the foundation for today’s Wi-Fi networks.
Earlier attempts to use white space were snared over fears Super Wi-Fi would interfere with broadcast stations and wireless microphone technology. FCC remedied this by setting aside two channels specifically for wireless microphone use to eliminate interference.
The push to use white space also got a boost when broadcast TV shifted to digital transmission, which opened air waves for other uses, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted
Upon FCC’s approval, Genachowski celebrated the possibilities of Super Wi-Fi.
“Super Wi-Fi is what it sounds like: Wi-Fi, but with longer range, faster speeds, and more reliable connections,” he said. “We can also expect, as we’ve seen now with Wi-Fi, enhanced performance from the mobile devices using licensed spectrum that we’ve come to rely on so heavily.”