The Next Age of the Internet: Over-the-Air Connectivity

While the FCC has been applying new rules to hardwired Internet service providers, the next age of Internet technology is already in the works.

Whitespace Internet TV Tower

Companies worldwide are exploring the means of delivering Internet service via whitespace radio waves, sometimes called Super WiFi. We in the United States know those gaps in radio frequencies best as those that once delivered analog local television channels to our rabbit-ear TV antennas, until 2009, when TV networks migrated to DTV digital signals. Nowadays, these radio frequencies are largely unused except for emergency services communication. Whitespace frequencies are better at penetrating walls than traditional Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and have been approved for Internet service by the FCC. In fact, the frequencies have already been used to deliver Internet connectivity at a handful of sites around the US, Europe, and India.

In developed countries, whitespace radio frequencies are an untapped resource waiting for an enterprising company to acquire the rights, develop a device that can accept Super WiFi signals for home and office use, and then sell subscriptions or even offer free over-the-air service (as broadcast TV networks do). The first commercial uses of Super WiFi technology are expected in Great Britain by the end of 2015, and then the possibilities are endless in providing Internet access to underserved rural areas, remote islands, and Third World countries. In fact, Microsoft is already experimenting with whitespace Internet networks across Africa and Asia.

So as the FCC quibbles about what speed constitutes “broadband,” companies are already starting to blanket the world with over-the-air Internet connectivity.

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