FCC move to release White Spaces spectrum has tech firms dreaming of wireless boom
In the paper today
By Cecilia Kang
Sunday, September 12, 2010; 8:54 PM
Entire towns linked to the Web as giant hot spots with seamless wireless connections. Internet-connected refrigerators that monitor when it's time to get more milk and eggs.
High-tech firms and engineers are dreaming that the Federal Communication Commission's move to release "white spaces," or unused television channels, later this month will unleash another boom of mobile innovation.
Two decades ago, the FCC released similar airwaves to the public, but no one thought doing so would have much impact for consumers. They were wrong: That band of short-range radio waves spawned baby monitors, garage-door openers and thousands of WiFi hot spots at Starbucks, New York's Times Square and homes across the nation.
Now, the FCC is betting that another batch of unlicensed and better-quality airwaves will enable engineers to turn those frequencies into WiFi networks on steroids. The airwaves would connect longer distances and penetrate through concrete walls - allowing for stronger connections.
For a start, the regulatory move, generally supported by all five commissioners, could help alleviate pressure on overburdened mobile networks that have frustrated some smartphone users who deal with dropped calls and slow Web connections.
Calling the communications technology "super WiFi," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that private carriers are increasingly relying on WiFi hot spots in urban areas to pick up data traffic where their own networks are overburdened. AT&T, for example, has installed many more hot spots in Manhattan, where iPhone users have complained of slow Internet service.
The new waves can be helpful "as an off-load strategy for providers and users to help deal with the spectrum crunch," he said.
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September 13, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
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