Super Wi-Fi or the use of vacated VHF/UHF radio spectrum for wireless networks – is it the right application?

 Super Wi-Fi: The Great White Hype? – SmallNetBuilder

My comments

What is happening with the VHF/UHF radio spectrum now

Over the last few years, various countries are moving their over-their-air television broadcasting setups from analogue (NTSC/PAL) technology to digital (ATSC/DVB-T) technology and during this transition phase, various tranches of radio spectrum have been opened up in the VHF Band 1 and 3 bands and the UHF bands. This is due to the digital technologies being more spectrum-efficient than the analogue technologies they are replacing.

What the USA is trying to do with their vacated VHF and UHF spectrum is to use it for long-range data networks rather than reuse it as space for more broadcasters to operate in. This is compared to what UK, Europe and Australia are doing with this spectrum where they reuse it, especially VHF Band 3, for DAB-based digital radio broadcasting and / or “packing out” the UHF Band with more DVB-T TV transmitters.

As well, in most of these countries, certain channels of the UHF band are used for 2-way CB radio activity and for short-range radio applications like wireless microphones or  remote controls.

What does the US “Super Wi-Fi” concept offer?

This concept applies most of the media-specific technologies implemented in the 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks to the use of vacant VHF and UHF spectrum. This is intended to provide a wireless data path alternative to WiMAX or 3G cellular data technologies for providing wireless-broadband service.

It would require the use of fixed base stations that can work in the VHF Bands and the lower frequencies of the UHF bands as well as easily-relocatable access points that work on the higher frequencies of the UHF band. There are a lot of requirements set by the FCC in order to curb unnecessary interference such as use of geolocation technology and look-up tables to determine the frequency for the base stations to tune to.

The SmallNetBuilder article had mentioned that the technology would only be suited for long-range work such as a cost-effective method of providing a rural area with real broadband Internet. It wouldn’t work well in increasing the throughput of broadband service in an urban area because most of the spectrum would be used by the TV channels. They also looked in to the issue of channel-bonding as a way of increasing data throughput but whether this could be seen as an option to be used in the standards.

Conclusion

I would concur that technologies that use surplus broadcasting spectrum would be better implemented towards working as a way of providing broadband to difficult-to-serve rural areas. Here, they would work as a way of bringing the service to the consumer’s property and that we use regular 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi technology for in-property wireless networking.

As well, I would prefer the broadcasting spectrum the be used to attain reliable reception of radio or television broadcast signals or provide improved broadcasting services. This step as well as the previously-mentioned one should achieve the goal of making sure that people who live or work in the country are not second-class citizens.

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