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Television Wireless Networking

FCC Unanimously Approves White Space Wi-Fi 156

Smelly Jeffrey writes "With the release of this whitepaper, the FCC unanimously approved plans for a new technology with strong supporters and even stronger detractors. White Space Wi-Fi effectively allows manufacturers of wireless devices to incorporate transceivers that operate on unused DTV channels. Although the deregulation is new, the idea seems to have caught Google's interest recently as well. It seems that this has been rather rushed through the normally stagnant channels at the FCC. While some view it as interference in the already crowded spectrum, it seems the FCC Chairman really likes the idea of re-purposing dark parts of the newly allocated DTV bands once more." Update: 11/06 18:15 GMT by T : You may want to look at Tuesday's mention of the decision as well, but the additional links here are interesting.
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FCC Unanimously Approves White Space Wi-Fi

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  • by GiMP ( 10923 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @01:37PM (#25663703)

    Existing Wifi uses channels open for use internationally (more or less). It sounds to me that this might not be true in this case. That is one reason for alarm.

  • Yeah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2008 @01:39PM (#25663735)

    I was watching the behind the scenes of "Family Guy" and they were talking about making up swear words. Seth said that when a made up swear word that was OK to say on TV becomes part of the language, the FCC will then consider it off-limits to say on TV.

    People can be so weird about words.

    Then you have the cry babies who have to bitch to the FCC over every little thing. But if you actually mention that there's an off switch, somehow, you're the moron.

  • Rural Internet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by synaptic ( 4599 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @02:01PM (#25664033) Homepage


    Rural areas with rolling hills and trees have really limited options with regard to high-speed Internet access. Line of sight just wasn't one of nature's design goals. It's really difficult to have a cottage high-tech industry without the infrastructure to support it and the population density simply isn't there for the telcos to have any incentive to build it out.

    Your best bet is Wildblue with 750-1500ms latency and 256kbps upload speed. You get used to it but forget sharing say a vmware image or uploading anything of substantial size. If you spend the time to do it, you also face rate-limiting from WildBlue once you pass a bandwidth threshold. Let us not forget wiping the snow off the dish, throwing a trash bag over the lnb when it rains, and wiggling the dish when you lose signal.

    Sure, rural users can try to order a T1 but since the wired infrastructure isn't built out (else the telco would be offering high-speed services), you can bet on "special construction charges" of at least $4k on top of the $500/month service charge. ISDN? Same issue.

    What about getting a ham radio license? That's fine and all, provided you don't ever use encryption, don't mind people intercepting your data, and remember to identify your station periodically.

    The truth is that more than half of the country simply cannot acquire high-speed Internet access for a reasonable rate.

  • Re:Good grief (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @02:42PM (#25664581) Journal

    I don't know about that. This was the show that introduced America to the "Venus Butterfly" [everything2.com]

  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @02:42PM (#25664585) Homepage

    There's several hundred megahertz of open spectrum in between the TV channels. Wireless mikes have had sole use of that empty space for a long time, and they're complaining because things are changing. In some cases, they may have to buy more equipment, but the idea that they should continue to get sole use of this huge amount of spectrum is ridiculous.

    What's needed is a way for wireless mics and the new whitespace devices to properly share the spectrum. The reason this is difficult is that wireless mics are manufactured many different ways, and don't have a standard transmission pattern. The "cognitive radios" will be able to detect digital TV stations automatically, but won't be able to sense the presence of wireless mics. So one possible solution is for wireless microphones to have an extra box that transmits a beacon that indicates to whitespace devices that "hey, there's a wireless mic here". That's an extra expense for each existing installation, but again, wireless mics shouldn't get sole use of this extra space.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @02:44PM (#25664595)

    They want to deregulate. Which means there will be no one authority to control these whitespaces. I don't think I need to explain what happens to an unmanaged network resource with multiple authorities competing; Multiple DHCP or domain controllers, etc.

    And no matter how you cut the bandwidth, there will be overhead, which increases as a function of the number of devices. While these devices may be logically separated, they are not physically separated, making the entire spectrum act like a hub-based network. And devices outside the range of other transcievers can still cause interference so long as the the device at the remote can hear that interference.

    So let me say that this is NOT A TECHNICAL PROBLEM. This is a tragedy of the commons problem. And it will be hugely exasperated in dense urban areas -- except on a larger footprint. Whereas before geographies with high densities of wifi devices could only interfere with each other up to a hundred meters or so, now we're talking about metro-wide interference. It'll be like CB radio, but for digital communication. And it will never compete with hardline installations like it could if it were regulated.

    This is the simple truth -- unless the FCC puts some form of regulation onto these bands prior to their first use, it's going to be a nightmare. It would be far better to license these bands for **non-profit use** (note I did NOT say non-commercial) somewhat like Ham radio, where people needed to aquire a license to transmit, and take classes, and have an ID associated with transmissions, and a regulatory body to monitor specious transmissions and revoke licenses or shut down non-compliant equipment as necessary. This plan stands the best chance of achiving a usable public, wireless, high speed network... which incidentally could carry internet traffic. Anything less, and all it takes is a few jerks with high power transmitters in an area to render the entire spectrum useless.

  • by pilgrim23 ( 716938 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @02:45PM (#25664625)

    Follow the Money someone once said... The whole reason analog Television was killed was spectrum. Lovely lovely spectrum. A TV channel takes up a lot of room. The entire AM dial would fit inside Channel 2 with room to spare for ship to shore radio. The advantage of this is that even marginal signals will come in with a little fuzz. On the other hand, Digital takes up far less room. The disadvantage is that marginal channels just simply drop, pixelize or freeze. White space is the room around the digital channel signal. Personally, since I get over the air analog (about 14 stations), and come 2009 will receive about 1.5 stations thanks to this (A big hill between my antenna and the broadcast tower), I think its great becasue I do not watch broadcast TV anyway. Worry about THEM apples Advertisers!

  • by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <chyeld@NOsPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday November 06, 2008 @02:56PM (#25664767)

    Conversely, if you have written the spec so that they must not stomp on licensed signals, why drag your feet on waiting on prototypes that are perfect?

    Oh wait, I know... because really the problem is the people who are already illegally using the spectrum (i.e. broadcasters and their wireless mics) and who see this as a threat to their own monopolies want to kill the idea and playing the waiting game gives them more time to do it in.

  • by fyrewulff ( 702920 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @03:20PM (#25665147)

    How are you going to lose access to channels that will not exist in 2 1/2 months?

  • by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Thursday November 06, 2008 @09:42PM (#25670205) Homepage

    jesus christ, do you have to repeat the same specious arguments every single time the white-space spectrum is brought up? what do hacked iPods have to do with FCC approval of wi-fi over the white-space spectrum? a hacker can modify their wireless devices to broadcast over any frequency they want regardless of federal regulations. the FCC regulates commercial equipment manufacturers, not renegade iPod hackers.

    besides, the white-space spectrum that is being opened up to wi-fi applications is what's being freed up by the switchover to digital television. whether wi-fi uses this spectrum or not, you're not going to receive any TV signals over it. that's why it's being classified as white-space. and you keep whining about some perceived threat all of this is based purely on blind speculation. the FCC tests have found that such use of the white-space spectrum won't interfere with any existing applications, so unless you can have evidence of the contrary, you're just talking out of your ass.

    opening up white-space frequencies for wireless broadband applications serves public interest much more than reserving this band for terrestrial TV broadcasts would. the usable radio spectrum is a limited public resource that is currently being monopolized by TV/radio/cellular networks. right now only a handful of media & communications corporations are allowed to make us of this data transmission medium. opening up the spectrum, even partially, to wireless broadband would allow everyone to benefit from this shared resource instead of it just being hoarded by a rich & powerful minority.

    frankly, terrestrial broadcasting, of both TV and radio, is soon to become a technological anachronism anyway. the internet is an open public communications network. what's more, it's a generalized digital communications network, meaning it can transfer video, audio, text, or any other data. so why waste radio bands on specialized closed communications networks? it won't be long before ubiquitous open wireless access subsumes all cellular/radio/tv networks.

    i'm sorry to say this, but your Luddite paranoia is really just a knee-jerk reaction to societal progress. it's like complaining that wireless routers are going to interfere with your teletype machine.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."