“The world is increasingly interconnected through mobile, high-speed communications yet two thirds of the world’s population have yet to gain access to the Internet.”
UN Millennium Goals , 2012 Update Report
As defined by the UN, access to the Internet is now among global citizens’ most basic rights. The European Commission’s Digital Agenda goes one step further by similarly highlighting broadband access as a basic right. To achieve this near ubiquity of access, radical changes will need to be made in how citizens of every country connect to the Internet. Many impediments exist on the path towards this goal, but one of the most important challenges is delivering ubiquitous, affordable access to all consumers.
To achieve this goal, different technologies – wired and wireless – will need to be used in different settings. For the vast majority of the world’s population, wireless technologies are proving the most economically efficient way of delivering reliable, affordable broadband access. But, even within wireless, a mix of solutions will need to be used. For example, technologies and business models that work well for delivering access to urban or wealthier populations might not work well for delivering access to rural or disadvantaged populations. Moreover, to address growing demand, wireless Internet service providers are increasingly encouraging consumers to use multiple forms of broadband access – for example, 3G and Wi-Fi – with the same devices.
One promising wireless technology is what is known as Dynamic Spectrum Access, which uses location-aware devices and online databases to deliver low-cost broadband access and other forms of connectivity to consumers. This approach is rooted in the idea that devices with greater knowledge of their surroundings can opportunistically use available radio spectrum. There are many TV broadcast channels that are unused in nearly every location in the world – these empty channels (blocks of spectrum) are what is known as “white spaces”. Dynamic Spectrum Access will first be used in TV-band White Spaces to deliver what we call “Super Wi-Fi.” Much like today’s license-exempt (unlicensed) technologies – most notably Wi-Fi – Super Wi-Fi will be provided over radio spectrum that is shared among different users and Internet service providers. This under-utilized spectrum is proving to be a key part of the future of not just universal broadband access but of the solution for the explosion of devices connecting the Internet.
Benefits of Super Wi-Fi
Super Wi-Fi, or using TV broadcast spectrum for Wi-Fi like connectivity, has several distinct advantages.
Super Wi-Fi networks work in much the same way as conventional Wi-Fi, but the signals travel over longer distances than the typical Wi-Fi signal. In typical applications, a strong Wi-Fi signal can cover 100 meters while a Super Wi-Fi signal at the same power level can easily travel 400 meters and with higher power can cover many kilometers.
Super Wi-Fi Signals Travel Farther
Penetrates Common Obstructions
Conventional Wi-Fi is relatively weak when it comes to working in typical physical settings – bumping up against concrete obstructions and many types of walls. Most population centers have thousands of likely Wi-Fi impediments and almost any installation in a building with more than a few rooms will eventually hit limits. Likewise, many rural areas are difficult to serve using existing technologies due to heavy foliage or topographical challenges. Super Wi-Fi can overcome these limits. Just as your TV signal passes through walls (and many of them), the wireless signal for your Internet connection will as well.
Super Wi-Fi Signals Penetrate More Walls
Covering a longer and wider range with approximately the same power and computing requirements results in systems that will deliver more bandwidth and more consumer benefits at lower network costs and lower power consumption. In addition, consumers will be able to satisfy their ever increasing bandwidth appetites and Internet providers will be able to provide more throughput in more places to more cons.