Super Wi-Fi Gets Off the Ground

Carl Weinschenk

In many cases, the transition of a technology from labs and controlled tests to widespread use escapes the radar unless people are watching for it.

During the past few years, a form of wireless communications dubbed “Super Wi-Fi” has been in the pipeline. It rolled out early this year in Wilmington, N.C., in a project led by Spectrum Bridge. Carlson Wireless and Spectrum Bridge said last week that they are working to further the technology across the country.

Super Wi-Fi uses white space frequencies, which are those that are now empty due to the relocation of broadcast channels. It is a very promising technology. White space channels are lower in the frequency range, so the signals have characteristics, such as range and ability to permeate structures, which are superior to Wi-Fi in use today. It's also a technical challenge because the spectrum available in one place will differ from what is there to be had in another. Working through that challenge was difficult, but generated significant new technology that can be reused in other areas.

What potentially is a signature use of Super Wi-Fi was announced this week. The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project, or Gig.U., is a consortium of more than 30 research universities. It is participating in a project called the Advanced Internet Regions (AIR.U). AIR.U will use Super Wi-Fi to improve high-speed connectivity on and near university campuses. The precise relationship between Gig.U and AIR.U is fuzzy, but it clearly is close. The Gig.U website has a lot of information about AIR.U. Particularly helpful is this Q&A.

Questions surrounding Gig.U and AIR.U will be cleared up. What is important in the short term is that this may be the kick off of the more expansive use of white space and Super Wi-Fi. It is worth remembering that the military and educational communities usually are in the vanguard of new technology. This is because they generally have some money to throw around, they are considered vital to society’s well-being and their needs can be extraordinary, making it more likely to take a flier on new technology.

We are entering an interesting era. On the cellular front, the acronym-filled early days of cell sites that are smaller than pole-mounted macrocells are consolidating into a class simply called “small cells.” And now, this new class of powerful Wi-Fi technology, Super Wi-Fi, is launching. Cell and Wi-Fi technology are coalescing.

These advances are driving three higher-level changes: More powerful untethered technologies are available, their presentation to consumers is simpler than in the past and they are driving us toward a world with a ubiquitous telecommunications fabric instead of a series of standalone, discrete technologies and services.

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