Microsoft Researchers working in conjunction with researchers from Harvard University have developed a breakthrough technology which would allow the use of the “whitespace” spectrum for wireless broadband networking. White spaces are the portions of the unlicensed spectrum that’s between the parts previously used to broadcast analog TV channels. The FCC hasn’t allowed this portion of the spectrum to be used in the past because it would interfere with other users, most notably the TV broadcasters. Since the analog to digital TV transition, however, parts of the spectrum are now being made available for public safety communications (such as police, fire departments, and rescue squads) while other parts are being auctioned off for wireless services like wireless broadband.
Microsoft was one of the first companies to receive a license from the FCC to create prototype white space devices. In order for these devices to locate other spectrum users and not interfere with their signals (wireless microphones are often used in this space, for example), the researchers developed a special algorithm which measures the spectrum and locates available frequencies. If interference occurs, the white space devices switch to another channel quickly. In Microsoft’s experiments, the transition took 3 seconds.
The resulting set of protocols used for wireless internet networking using these methods are collectively being called “White-Fi” technology because of their similarities to the Wi-Fi systems used today. With “White-Fi,” the long-range wireless broadband necessary to cover rural areas, could soon become a reality. It could even allow you to connect to your home’s router from up to a mile away, noted Ranveer Chandra, a researcher working on this project.
Although White-Fi technology won’t provide as much bandwidth as other wireless technologies like WiMAX or LTE, it would at least provide broadband comparable to Wi-Fi networks but at longer distances.