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First Super Wi-Fi Network in the U.S. Finally Deployed

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 34 comments

The first commercial TV white spaces network has been launched, leading to a nation-wide public internet access.

Just hours ago on a cold, rainy Thursday afternoon, Spectrum Bridge launched the world's first commercial TV White Space network at a special event at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside Hotel in Wilmington, North Carolina.

The city, which many call East Hollywood thanks to the late Dino De Laurentiis, Stephen King and Screen Gems, was the platform for testing OTA digital TV before it went national back in 2008. One Tree Hill's hometown then served as testing grounds again for creating a Super Wi-Fi network using the vacant frequencies left behind by OTA analog TV signals. Finally after years of testing, Florida-based Spectrum Bridge, Inc. created a white spaces database system -- aka a cloud-based spectrum management platform -- which was just approved by the FCC back in December and switched on today.

The company is now providing full-blown public Wi-Fi internet access at Hugh MacRae park. The company has also installed broadband-based security cameras at Airlie Gardens which access the white space spectrum, and has even replaced a costly data connection at the landfill. Overall the public Wi-Fi network will eventually expand across the nation at a later date, and will be free to access given that white space is an unlicensed spectrum like Wi-Fi.

TV White Space frequencies are located at a lower frequency band than Wi-Fi, so the signals can travel further. They also have superior non-line-of-sight performance which allows the signal to penetrate obstacles such as trees, buildings, or rugged terrain at greater distances than other unlicensed spectrum. For the city and many companies installing hardware like surveillance cameras, line-of-sight is no longer an issue, reducing installation costs.

"It used to cost $20,000 to install a camera, but today we can move the camera around very cheaply," said Wilmington Mayer Bill Saffo. Larry Blumenfeld, founder of Access Control Consultants added that the only problem he's seen with the new technology thus far is that it's not completely mature.

The drawback to TV White Space frequencies is that they are slower because of their overall reach, providing speeds up to 10 to 15 Mbps compared to the peak speeds of 54 Mbps via Wireless G. Current devices can access this new public network, but only at close range. So far there's only one FCC approved device built for TV White Space access, and commercial devices aren't expected to arrive for another year or two -- which is plenty of time to roll out the network nationwide.

"We are extremely pleased with the installations of the white spaces systems at our parks and gardens," said Ted Davis, Chairman of New Hanover County. "This technology has proven to be an unobtrusive, environmentally friendly way to offer services to our citizens and the visitors at our parks and to give our staff more efficient ways to manage these locations."

"The main functions of the current system are for video surveillance, citizen and property security, traffic surveillance/mitigation and public wireless Internet access," Spectrum Bridge said on Thursday. "In the near future, cities will be connected through integrated wireless networking technology to manage congestion, maximize energy efficiency, enhance public safety and provide valuable services to the citizens within the community. With these advanced monitoring systems and smart sensors, city management enhances the decision-making by collecting the data and analyzing it in real-time."

In it's current condition, the public Super Wi-Fi network up and running in Hugh MacRae park is unimpressive, but then again that may have something to do with consumer hardware. The best signal that was received on an Xperia PLAY smartphone (Wireless N) was two out of four bars, and that was seemingly near the actual source. Hardware related to the network was found mounted on the roof of two picnic shelters, as seen in the images below, and one possibly related device mounted on the outside of the ballpark office -- local workers weren't too sure where everything was installed and Spectrum Bridge wasn't available for a demonstration. That said, there may have also been an "access point" in the park's nature walk across the street, as that connection was picked up in the intersection adjacent to the park itself.

Given this is officially day one, perfection isn't expected. By the time the photos were acquired, it began to sprinkle again and grow dark. A drive around the entire park revealed the strongest points to be around the ballpark whereas signal was nonexistent throughout most of the park's outer real estate. This may likely improve as the city installs additional hardware, so time will tell.

Nevertheless, we'll keep you updated on the Super Wi-Fi network given that it's literally just blocks away. Below is a map of Hugh MacRae to give an example of the network's reach via a Wi-Fi device.

Discuss
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Top Comments
  • 11 Hide
    cheepstuff , January 27, 2012 2:07 AM
    keczapifrytkiDoes this mean that we will eventually get free internet access all around USA?

    Be careful about how you define "free".
    If you mean that you wont have to pay for it directly through a monthly bill from a company, then yes.
    The cost of a public internet service in the US would, however, be payed through taxes, so it still costs money to run, and you would have no opportunity to op-out like you could before.

    It might be a good idea, it might not, depends on how it is implemented.
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    Onikage , January 27, 2012 12:53 AM
    intresting ,, hope its fast too
  • -3 Hide
    ajay_vishvanathan , January 27, 2012 12:53 AM
    wow.. that cuts the cables.. :D 
    faster.. safer.. reliable.. :D 
  • -3 Hide
    Onikage , January 27, 2012 12:54 AM
    hope its fast too
  • 7 Hide
    maziar321 , January 27, 2012 1:56 AM
    Ugh... 10-15mbs limit? Thats not good. I mean, for what it is, its better than expected, but we all know that we won't even be getting 10-15mbs. It will probably end up being somewhere around, what? 3mbs? But, its still a huge advancement, especially if this comes out nationwide.
  • 11 Hide
    cheepstuff , January 27, 2012 2:07 AM
    keczapifrytkiDoes this mean that we will eventually get free internet access all around USA?

    Be careful about how you define "free".
    If you mean that you wont have to pay for it directly through a monthly bill from a company, then yes.
    The cost of a public internet service in the US would, however, be payed through taxes, so it still costs money to run, and you would have no opportunity to op-out like you could before.

    It might be a good idea, it might not, depends on how it is implemented.
  • -1 Hide
    Supertrek32 , January 27, 2012 2:26 AM
    "For the city and many companies installing hardware like surveillance cameras, line-of-sight is no longer an issue, reducing installation costs."

    So the cameras can see through walls? Sweet!
  • 5 Hide
    ScrewySqrl , January 27, 2012 2:36 AM
    supertrek32"For the city and many companies installing hardware like surveillance cameras, line-of-sight is no longer an issue, reducing installation costs."So the cameras can see through walls? Sweet!


    the wi-fi can, silly :D 
  • 3 Hide
    cpatel1987 , January 27, 2012 2:46 AM
    Anyone else feel there are a ton of variables that haven't been accounted for? The kind of load that this public wifi can handle, how its monitored, how is it maintained, at what cost to the user (in the future)?
  • -2 Hide
    richboyliang , January 27, 2012 3:38 AM
    "In it's current condition"

    god damnit most common grammar mistake in the book
  • 1 Hide
    richboyliang , January 27, 2012 3:39 AM
    I'm excited at the idea of finally getting universal free wireless internet access, something people have longed for, but it'll start with the speeds were were used to maybe 10 years ago (don't remember that long), so don't expect too much or compare it with your home internet.
  • -1 Hide
    aftcomet , January 27, 2012 3:44 AM
    How about health? As much as I love technology, human health comes first. We're still not sure of all the effects of radiation. Are we all going to have cancer in 40 years?
  • 1 Hide
    nikorr , January 27, 2012 4:07 AM
    Not bad....
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , January 27, 2012 4:08 AM
    Quote:
    How about health? As much as I love technology, human health comes first. We're still not sure of all the effects of radiation. Are we all going to have cancer in 40 years?
    Yes, we will all have cancer because using the old tv spectrum for wifi is deadly. Fortunately, we'll all be dead before then because its 2012!
  • 1 Hide
    alyoshka , January 27, 2012 4:18 AM
    @cpatel1987
    "Anyone else feel there are a ton of variables that haven't been accounted for? The kind of load that this public wifi can handle, how its monitored, how is it maintained, at what cost to the user (in the future)?"

    Yeah....... it's all been looked into and very very well controlled and monitored.
  • 3 Hide
    anonymous32111 , January 27, 2012 4:43 AM
    I read an article about the whitespace testing a while ago, from what i remember it was very cool stuff. they could supposedly get a much larger range, but the best part is instead of having 10,000 users in a stadium jam up the local wifi, 10,000 users can all wi-fi at the same time.

    Its actually better for lots of people near the same area. If this technology could get up to say 100mbps per second, amazing.

    The next logical step, once you have everything optimized:
    1.) spread all of these over the most populated U.S places
    2.) prepare for warfare as you force every wireless carrier to their knees.
    3.) enjoy the cries of rejoice and success for giving everybody affordable unlimited mobile data plans and internet.
  • 3 Hide
    alidan , January 27, 2012 5:39 AM
    cheepstuffBe careful about how you define "free".If you mean that you wont have to pay for it directly through a monthly bill from a company, then yes. The cost of a public internet service in the US would, however, be payed through taxes, so it still costs money to run, and you would have no opportunity to op-out like you could before.It might be a good idea, it might not, depends on how it is implemented.


    what was it, 20-50 million dollars a few years back was spent to advertise the 20$ bill change?
    2-800$ plungers
    not to mention 4 billion in aid to just one country on a yearly basis

    as far as im concerned, this is a better waste of our money than EVERYTHING ELSE they do,

    aftcometHow about health? As much as I love technology, human health comes first. We're still not sure of all the effects of radiation. Are we all going to have cancer in 40 years?


    this is crap we already used and is being repurposed.
  • -4 Hide
    neon871 , January 27, 2012 8:55 AM
    But will it play Crysis?
  • 1 Hide
    caparc , January 27, 2012 8:58 AM
    White space is supposed to have some unlicensed frequencies, meaning consumers can buy a $50 box and notebook card made by linksys or buffalo, plug it in at home to the cable modem and have wireless that's superior in every way to wifi. That's been promised before with other frequencies and it didn't happen. I'll believe it when I see it.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 27, 2012 10:42 AM
    So this is a waste of money. I can already see the drawbacks as speed is already an issue with a good signal and will most likely degrade further for most people. I can already see groups of people huddled around the antenna trying to watch video. A better ideal was what Europe did in many places and created small network hotspots that would provide this type of access. The real question is how effective will it be if its overwhelmed by bandwidth hogs? 10 to 15 mbps won't seem like much once you get those hogs sucking all the bandwidth.
  • 3 Hide
    willard , January 27, 2012 11:52 AM
    aftcometHow about health? As much as I love technology, human health comes first. We're still not sure of all the effects of radiation. Are we all going to have cancer in 40 years?

    We actually are sure of all the effects of radiation (at least, if you're talking about wireless radios, cell towers, etc.). That is, they don't do anything to humans. Those who report that they are adversely effective have, in all cases, been totally unable to reliably reproduce the effect. In fact, there's a $1M prize standing for any human who can detect radio signals. If these people's symptoms were actually a result of what they claim, then one of them would have walked away with the prize years ago.

    In truth, these people are simply blaming radio signals for symptoms they can't find any other cause for, and that may even be psychosomatic (all in your head). This is largely a result of the proliferation of wireless devices combined with confirmation bias. They get a headache and look for a cell phone or GPS to blame it on, find it, and use that as confirmation that the cell phone or GPS caused it. It would be just as valid to blame it on wearing clothes, being in contact with Earth's atmosphere or blinking.

    The reality is this kind of radiation is safe. The energy level is much too low to damage cells, except potentially at very close ranges (and even that is contested, with studies turning up nothing conclusive). It's also non-ionizing. There have also been powerful radio towers broadcasting for several decades now.

    In short, if there were serious health issues, we'd have seen them by now. The jury is still out on whether or not putting a cell phone antenna next to your brain is a good idea, but research is being done.
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