Washington - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted for the second time in as many years to open up unused "white spaces" in the TV band for unlicensed uses that could include wide-area "Super Wi-Fi" hot spots.
Because of the propagation characteristics of the spectrum, which is below 1GHz, Super Wi-Fi signals would travel longer distances and at faster speeds than traditional 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi and also more easily travel through walls, the FCC noted. The propagation characteristics mean large markets could be covered by only a handful of base stations.
The spectrum could also be used to deliver low-cost wireless broadband to rural and poor areas, transmit traffic videos, build electric-utility smart grids, create faster home networks, and create services that the FCC said it couldn't envision.
Although the FCC
to free up white spaces for unlicensed use, opposition by TV broadcasters, users of wireless microphones, and other constituencies sent the FCC back to the drawing boards to revise the rules that it originally developed to prevent interference with over-the-air TV reception and with wireless microphones. The microphones are commonly used by TV news reporters, sports arenas, Broadway theaters, churches and schools.
With the new vote, the FCC also eliminated its previous requirement that two types of sensing technologies be included in unlicensed devices to find spectrum not in use. The change was in response to complaints that the two-technology requirement would slow the launch of white-space devices. Now, the FCC is requiring only one technology, which is GPS geo-location combined with a database of locations of TV stations, cable-operator head ends, wireless-mike venues and other current white-space users. The database will tell a new white-space device what spectrum it can use in its current location. The technology that is no longer mandated is signal-sensing technology, which would enable a device to sense transmissions from TV stations and other incumbent users.
Other rule changes include the adoption of two dedicated channels for wireless-mic users.
For its part, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) said it's still studying the latest decision.
The FCC said the vote marked the first significant block of spectrum made available for unlicensed use in 25 years.