In 2010, the Obama Administration announced a road map to release 500 MHz of frequencies for mobile broadband. Looks like progress is being made. Perhaps the most significant move by the commission was to allow a broad swath of airwaves to be used for outdoor unlicensed broadband, clearing the way for a new generation of Wi-Fi networks and other uses of freely available airwaves. Unlike the airwaves used for mobile phone traffic, which are licensed to a specific company, unlicensed spectrum can be used by anyone. Previous establishments of unlicensed airwaves led to innovations like garage-door openers, baby monitors, wireless microphones and Wi-Fi networks.
Chanuka posted the story before the Economist, but it may still be worthwhile reading what the take is from the headquarters of free market thinking: White space could be even bigger. The frequencies involved were chosen for television back in the 1950s for good reason: they travel long distances, are hardly affected by the weather, carry lots of data, and penetrate deep into the nooks and crannies of buildings. No surprise proponents have dubbed them “WiFi on steroids”. Once the changeover from analog to digital broadcasting is complete, the television networks will no longer need the white spaces between analog channels to prevent interference from noise and other transmissions. Apart from digital broadcasts being far less vulnerable to interference, there’s now plenty of frequency-hopping technology around for detecting digital broadcasts and avoiding them.