FCC to Open Wireless Across TV Spectrum

The F.C.C. will vote on Sept. 23 to make wireless Internet service available over airwaves, unlocking the potential of “Wi-Fi on steroids.”

If approved, the move will allow the white space portion of television broadcast spectrum to be used for wireless networks, which will do away with the need to find a wireless hot spot and will open the door to super powerful Wi-Fi networks.

The move will likely pave the way for a new suite of enhanced Wi-Fi devices capable of passing through walls and transmitting data over much greater distances than current technology. The stronger signals will bring wireless to rural areas, minimize dead zones, and help connect vast corporate campuses, hospitals and the like.

Furthermore, the FCC is doing away with the traditional practice of auctioning off the spectrum for revenues. The whitespace spectrum will be available without a license and for anyone to grab. The unused bands of television spectrum have been languishing all this time, but now, given the approval by the F.C.C. this month, start-up companies that have traditionally been unable to afford spectrum will be able to compete.

The idea is not without issue: broadcasters fear the new use of signals will interfere with their transmissions, and industries using microphones, such as theaters, stadiums and churches have objected to similar decisions in the past for fear of microphone interference.

 The F.C.C. tried to skirt these problems in the past by requiring new devices to include a feature that electronically searches for airwaves that are unoccupied. This failed to reconcile the problem, however, because the feature and the increased engineering intensity would have made devices more expensive.

As of the time of this writing, there is uncertainty regarding exactly how the F.C.C. plans to cope with the problem of interference, but analysts speculate that wireless microphones and broadcasts will be given certain transmission priorities.

According to CNET, the F.C.C. has mapped TV channels and major wireless microphone usage areas such as Broadway, and will require the devices using the white space to be configured around the frequencies of the mapped areas. Still, this posits the same problem as the previous ruling: developers may be unwilling to foot the hefty bill.

Nonetheless, Wi-Fi on steroids appears to be just around the corner as the F.C.C. seems poised on an affirmative vote. Early next year, certain Wi-Fi hotspots will be able to range for miles rather than half a football field.