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White Space Wi-Fi (White-Fi)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

White space Wi-Fi, also known as White-Fi , is the use of frequencies made available by the absence of analog-to-air TV signals to create Wi-Fi networks. The technology is specified in IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 802.11af.

White space, in a communications context, refers to underutilized portions of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum. The switchover to digital television left large portions of the spectrum unused, in particular the frequencies allocated for analog television and  those used as buffers to prevent interference between channels. 

On September 23, 2010 the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) voted unanimously to open up the underused frequencies (470-710Mhz) that had been reserved for TV signals for unlicensed use. This decision made the ranges available for residential and business networking. The IEEE 802.11af and 802.22 working groups have been developing technologies using these ranges for Wi-Fi and wireless regional area networks (WRAN) respectively.

White space Wi-Fi will require new hardware but offers improvements in range, speed and penetration of obstacles that could lead to better quality service at a lower cost:

  • The range extends for just under seven miles rather than the block or two current wireless routers can manage. The greater range can enable better quality wireless networks for underserved areas.
  • One of the major problems with wireless technologies is that they are easily obstructed. Better penetration of obstacles should improve performance and reliability.
  • At speeds of up to 400-800 megabits per second (Mbps), 3G and 4G mobile broadband speeds are exceeded, even at long range, possibly ending predatory pricing on mobile data.
  • Fewer network devices are required to cover an area, which is especially important to businesses that provide large Wi-Fi networks.
This was last updated in June 2016

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