In a potential boon to wireless Internet users—particularly those with smartphones—the FCC has announced plans to free up previously unused "white space" TV airwaves. The move is intended to pave the way for "supercharged" Wi-Fi networks that would increase connection strength, penetrate through concrete walls, and enable rural communities to be "seamlessly" connected. The proposal, which is still pending a vote on September 23rd, appears to have won enough support from broadcasters, and is anxiously awaited by tech giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft. If it's approved, it will be the first "significant" block of mobile spectrum made newly available in nearly 20 years. Tech critics and pundits weigh in on the potential benefits of "Wi-Fi on Steroids."
Google Is 'Hungrily' Awaiting This for the simple reason that "its Web applications will reach more people," points out Clint Boulton at eWeek. Most tech companies are "salivating" at the prospect: "Google, Facebook and others depend on fat pipes and powerful broadband networks to carry the data packets generated by its Web applications from Google's cloud of servers to consumers' computers. Google pairs ads with these Web apps to make $24 billion a year."
- The Pros Outweigh the Cons But... it's unclear how consumers will implement effective wireless security, notes
Tony Bradley at PC World. "If you can drive down the street and find
random unprotected wireless networks with the current range limitations,
imagine how many unsecured wireless networks you could detect if the
signal could travel farther and go through walls. With a wireless
network that extends beyond walls and covers a greater range, security
will be even more critical."
- The Possibilities Are Endless The
move is similar to two decades ago when the FCC released a band of
short-range radio waves that "spawned baby monitors, garage-door openers
and thousands of WiFi hot spots," writes
Cecilia Kang at The Washington Post. Another similar "boom of
innovation" could result from the FCC's new efforts. At the very least
it will, "help alleviate pressure on overburdened mobile networks that
have frustrated some smartphone users who deal with dropped calls and
slow Web connections."
- 'Ideal' for Rural Communities "where it would be costly to install miles of wires and cables underground or atop telephone poles," reports John Poirier at Reuters. But the effects of the "white space" proposal won't be soon felt: "Consumers may have to wait at a year and a half to two years to start seeing the benefits as network operators, chip vendors and device manufacturers all work together to create industry standards similar to the ones used for current WiFi."
- Urban Areas
Won't Benefit As Much These areas, "which have the most demand for the
new airwaves, have less of them available because more local television
stations are using available bands," reports Edward Wyatt at The New
York Times. "Also, by making the airwaves available free, the F.C.C. is
bypassing the possibility of using them to generate revenue, either
through auctions or user fees."
- 'Electronic Makers Will Jump All Over the Newly Available Spectrum' notes Terrence O'Brien at AOL Tech. "Many technology companies (Google being among the most outspoken) have been pushing to open the spectrum to unlicensed use... And in a win for privacy advocates, it appears a requirement that forced devices using the spectrum to register with a database has been dropped."