Posted by: crudbasher | September 24, 2010

White Space Wifi Explained

A few days ago the FCC gave final approval for using the old analog TV channel frequencies for Wifi.  This will be a big improvement for Wifi networks in schools. Here’s how it works and why this is a good thing.

When you are on a wifi network, even 802.11n you will notice that the performance drops off pretty quickly as you go farther away from the transmitter.  This is because different parts of the radio spectrum travel better than others.  The best part of the spectrum was used for TV broadcasts (for obvious reasons).  A few years ago the government made everyone switch over to digital TV.  Digital TV uses much less of the spectrum.  Therefore a lot of those old TV channels are just sitting there not used.

The FCC has now approved a plan to create what is called White Space Wifi.  It works as follows:

  1. You setup a wifi access point like you usually would.
  2. The access point will query a web database somewhere to find out what other wifi access points are in the area. Because the range of the technology is longer, they need to prevent interference.
  3. Once the machine finds an open frequency, it begins operation and adds itself to the web database.

With technology like this you will need much fewer access points to cover a school and the speed will be much faster for everyone.

Once you start putting whitespace wifi into tvs and projectors you can get rid of wires too.  It becomes much easier to add this kind of technology to a classroom.  Video conferencing and other high bandwidth technologies become much more practical.

With higher bandwidth applications always being developed on the net, White Space Wifi will be a disruptive technology.


  • Article about whitespace Wifi approval

    tags: wifi technology

    • At its monthly meeting today, all five FCC Commissioners set disagreements (mostly) aside and unanimously supported the final rules that will open empty TV channels to unlicensed broadband use. If all goes according to plan, these “TV white spaces” will be the raw material that unleashes another WiFi revolution—but this time with longer range, better building penetration, and even more speed.
    • Government sets the ground rules that enable competition and prevent harm, then largely gets out of the way to let people innovate.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.



  1. That is really great news for schools, hopefully changes like this will make wireless access more ubiquitous at schools.

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