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Super Wi-Fi Name Could be an Issue; Access Clarification

As reported last week, so far there's nothing really "super" about Super Wi-Fi. There are no blazing speeds to make it superior to what we currently have, and at least for now, probably never will.

A network using the Television White Spaces (TWS) frequencies will reportedly provide 15 Mbps at the most, nowhere close to the 54 Mbps peak speed provided by the old and decrepit 802.11g standard. What seemingly makes this technology "super" is the way transmissions can penetrate obstacles and the overall reach. A TWS connection has a stronger punch with a longer reach, but just isn't as fast as its shorter Wi-Fi counterpart.

Now with the nation's first "Super Wi-Fi" network up and running in a small North Carolina town, the Wi-Fi Alliance is worried there may be some consumer confusion. In a statement released on Friday, the group points out that there are no commercial devices on the market that are fully compatible with the new network, nor is there Wi-Fi technology that works correctly in the TWS spectrum. Even more, the term Wi-Fi is a registered trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance, meaning that adding "super" is a definite legal no-no.

"The Wi-Fi Alliance supports efforts to use the unlicensed spectrum known as Television White Spaces to expand connectivity," the group said on Friday. "However, Wi-Fi Alliance cautions that the use of terminology such as 'Super Wi-Fi' or 'Next Generation Wi-Fi' for the Television White Spaces implementations available today will lead to substantial user confusion. Consumers should be aware that recently-announced deployments using terms like 'Super Wi-Fi' are not in fact Wi-Fi."

"It is important that users not be misled into confusing any such technology with Wi-Fi," the group adds.

The Wireless Innovation Alliance trade group says that radios using TWS will probably use a new standard called 802.22 for "regional area network." That said, TWS will seemingly be no more "super" than Wi-Fi on 802.11 (local area network), Bluetooth on 802.15 (personal are network), and WiMAX on 802.16 (metropolitan are network). TWS will be just another part of the networking rainbow, and nothing above.

Right now TWS devices cannot be moved. Instead, they must remain stationary, as they check their location against a database -- one of which was installed and launched last week -- to make sure it's not interfering with a channel being used by a Digital TV signal or a wireless microphone. Personal TWS devices for laptops and tablets are expected to arrive by the end of the year. These will likely be portable hotspot devices with additional Wi-Fi connectivity, and capable of sniffing out clean frequencies as the user moves around.

In our report last week, we were told that connecting to the just-erected "Super Wi-Fi" network using a Wi-Fi device was possible. Since then, we've learned that using a Wi-Fi device directly just isn't possible. Instead, the TWS network is actually used as a backhaul link for separately installed 2.4 and 5 GHz base stations which provides the local Internet connection.

That said, the difficult connection issues had nothing to do with TWS itself but the park's Wi-Fi hotspots. Connection was attempted using the 2.4 GHz band as well -- we didn't even try the less congested 5 GHz avenue. KTS Wireless is responsible for erecting the (well hidden) Agility White Space Radio (AWR) stations, providing the TWS network, promising data rates from 1.5 to 3.1 MB/s (or 12 to 24.8 Mbps).

  • phamhlam
    The use of the name Wi-Fi does make it confusing. It should be called something else since it doesn't even work with current wi-fi standards.
    Reply
  • willard
    Finally, a trademark/copyright case that doesn't leave you with a foul taste in your mouth. Looks like the Wi-Fi Alliance has a perfectly valid argument here, and I'm inclined to agree.

    If it ain't Wi-Fi, don't call it Wi-Fi.
    Reply
  • mrmaia
    FINALLY a sue "threat" that makes full sense.

    That said, it makes me sad to see "will reportedly provide 15 Mbps at the most, nowhere close to the 54 Mbps peak speed provided by the old and decrepit 802.11g standard.". Here in Brazil, even 1Mbps is considered very fast for wireless internet.
    Reply
  • huron
    Interesting...I'll have to agree. I'm in favor of the ones suing for the first time in a long time.
    Reply
  • RealBeast
    Doh! I thought it was Super so I needed it, now I find out that it is only Super in name. Very disappointing.
    Reply
  • kentlowt
    Performance may be the wrong way to look at this technology. Better access in areas where you don't have line of sight and things like this may make it more stable. In some cases I would rather have a more stable signal than a blazing fast one. If it is indeed more stable. Last I heard the network detection part still had a ways to go before being reliable.
    Reply
  • azgard
    I'm confused how this is going to be implemented though, as this is an FCC endorsed project for 'free internet' let's see how much tracking and censorship is going to be involved in this project.
    Reply
  • back_by_demand
    Fair play, it may not use the "IEEE 802.11" protocols, but it is wireless and wifi is a marketing slogan, not a technical standard, people will still call it super-wifi and no one is going to stop them unless a catchier name comes along
    Reply
  • agnickolov
    Isn't marketing speak lovely? First we had hi-fi in the good old days (70s, 80s). Then they coined wi-fi in the 90s to elicit that sense of pride hi-fi invoked. These days we have wi-di as well. None of these are related to each other in any way BTW - hi-fi is acoustics, wi-fi is networking, wi-di is a display link technology. And now we get super wi-fi...
    Reply
  • azgard
    back_by_demandFair play, it may not use the "IEEE 802.11" protocols, but it is wireless and wifi is a marketing slogan, not a technical standard, people will still call it super-wifi and no one is going to stop them unless a catchier name comes along
    No, its a registered trademark, not a "marketing slogan". Comparing your analogy would be Dodge trying to market the Dodge Mustang on a Chevrolet Corvette Clone.
    Reply