The search for unoccupied radio waves

Next week FCC will see a proposal for white spaces.

What does white spaces mean -they are unoccupied radio waves. If FCC adopts the rule for it, WIFI will have new areas to explore, develop and use frequencies of higher power, which means that the signal could cover miles and according to research even go through walls.

One of the roadblocks for defining white spaces is that the available frequencies vary from market to market. But Neeraj Srivaspaba from Spectrum Bridge Inc, offers a suggestion: geo-location database (Spectrum Bridge developed the DB). The idea is to use some sort of geo-location before it can start transmitting, used in GPS or cell towers for example. Basically it has to figure out its latitude and longitude, the information is sent to a database and the database returns an answer whether it can use the channels. The remaining question is how often the devices have to check with the database.

In most cases where Spectrum Bridge Inc tested it used converted AirSpan WiMax gear with no attempt to encode for maximum throughput.

Microsoft has already switched on its campus-wide white-space network (using only 2 hotspots for200-hectare). The Redmond company wants unrestricted access on detect-and-avoid technology to establish which frequencies are used and avoid them. This is actually might not work for both technical and architectural reasons.

One major problem could be the medical devices. Apparently they use white spaces since 1988, even though in 1998 FCC allocated channel 37 for all healthcare devices. But most of them haven’t made the switch because it will be expensive.

And if the FCC gives the green light for the project, a IEEE committee will be established with the name 802.11AF. If all the political fights were handled correctly, this might be a major push towards new WIFI development. Of course I remain skeptic to see how the big players will react and will we see something resembling a whole wireless planet, where we could find easily hotspots, with better speed and cover, or we will witness some fragmentation of the market and oligopoly, closed networks and etc.