[opendtv] EE Times: 'Super WiFi' Comes to WVU

  • From: "Manfredi, Albert E" <albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2013 16:56:17 +0000

One thing I'd point out is, I'm not sure I agree with Junko's definition of 
"white spaces." White spaces are locally unused TV channels within the TV 
broadcast bands. The 700 MHz spectrum should no longer be considered "white 
space," because TV lost channels 52-69 in 2009, with the end of (full power) 
analog TV broadcasting. So what we're really talking about, with "white space" 
spectrum, should now only be up to Ch 51. True, the FCC is also trying to 
subtract Ch 32 and beyond, I believe it is, from TV broadcasting. The 600 MHz 
band is in principle Ch 36-51, but the FCC is interested in a few more. Still, 
that's a separate discussion from "white spaces." Once these are subtracted 
from TV broadcasting, I don't think they qualify as white spaces either. The 
800 MHz band was also taken away from TV years ago, for cellular telephone 
service (Ch 70-83), and that's not considered white spaces anymore either.

In fact, this "super WiFi" is not all that super, compared with real WiFi. At 
least not in terms of bit rates. What I can't figure out is why there should be 
any controversy about its application? In rural areas, TV white space spectrum 
should be plentiful, and a long range but low bit rate wireless network might 
be okay. Low population density helps.

In urban and suburban areas, TV white spaces are going to be really hard to 
come by. But at the same time, why be so insistent? It's not like the IEEE 
802.22 range of 4.54 Mb/s to 22.69 Mbit/s (the high figure is the least robust) 
can serve any appreciable fraction of the urban/suburban population. And these 
are gross numbers, aggregated for all users on a given 6 MHz channel, not net 
values per user!!

It makes good sense for small numbers of rural homes. Everything in its proper 
perspective. By the way, compare the most fragile channel capacity of this IEEE 
802.22 with that of ATSC.



'Super WiFi' Comes to WVU
Junko Yoshida
7/9/2013 06:00 PM EDT 

MADISON, Wis. - West Virginia University advanced the cause of offering 
expanded broadband access to underserved rural communities with the 
announcement Tuesday, July 9, that it became the first university in the United 
States to use low-frequency "white spaces" -- left empty by TV stations that 
have switched to digital broadcasting -- to provide wireless broadband coverage 
on the campus and nearby areas.

The university rolled out the pilot program in partnership with the Advanced 
Internet Regions consortium (AIR.U), a group of more than 500 higher learning 
institutions and technology industry partners such as Google and Microsoft.

The group's initial goal is "to plan and deploy several pilot networks in 
diverse university communities and create a roadmap for the rapid deployment of 
sustainable, next-generation wireless networks as White Space equipment becomes 
widely available in 2013," said the consortium in a statement last year.

The initial phase of the network provides free public WiFi access for students 
and faculty on a 73-car tram system that transports some 15,000 riders daily, 
known as PRT, or Personal Rapid Transit.

Improved wireless connectivity and broadband coverage, with the campus as a 
test site, "may well offer a solution for the many West Virginia communities 
where broadband access continues to be an issue," West Virginia University 
chief information officer John Campbell said in a statement.

Pros and cons of "Super WiFi"

The wireless broadband network offered at West Virginia University is called 
"Super WiFi" -- a term originally coined by the Federal Communications 
Commission with the intention of creating new longer-distance wireless Internet 
access in both metropolitan and rural areas.

The terminology, however, is somewhat controversial, because Super WiFi isn't 
compatible with WiFi (which is trademarked). Unlike WiFi, which uses a 2.4 GHz 
radio frequency, Super WiFi uses lower-frequency white spaces between 
television channels. The result is that Super WiFi must use a different radio 
from conventional WiFi, and currently two different standards are being 
developed for the white-space spectrum: IEEE8021.11af and IEEE802.22.

Critics also claim that there is nothing "super" about Super WiFi. Compared to 
the latest WiFi standard such as IEEE 802.11ac, designed to deliver throughput 
rates close to 1 Gigabit per second in a base configuration, Super WiFi is 
reportedly slow -- limited to a peak rate of 29 megabits per second.

However, Super WiFi signals, at lower frequencies, are better at broaching 
thick walls and covering larger expanses.

FCC spectrum auction

In conjunction with the FCC's incentive spectrum auction proposal, launched in 
September 2012, the industry and the media have stirred both debate and 
confusions over the FCC's spectrum plan, how best to use the white spaces, and 
how Super WiFi might fit into the picture.

Just to clarify, the FCC is talking of two types of spectrum, when it discusses 
unlicensed devices to operate in "white spaces." The agency sees the white 
spaces in the TV spectrum as an opportunity for "a new generation of products 
such as Super WiFi and wireless broadband services for communities, 
particularly in rural areas."

First, there is the existing TV white space spectrum that has been fought over 
-- generally in the 700 MHz realm. This will remain available for unlicensed 

Second, as part of the discussion on the planned new spectrum auction 
(scheduled in 2014) focused in the 600 MHz block, FCC is proposing that the new 
auction should, in theory, add additional open spectrum for unlicensed use. The 
FCC is specifically looking at freeing up channel 37 (608 to 614 MHz), and 
portions of the so-called "guard bands" between licensed spectrum chunks, that 
they would like to "add" to the existing white space rules. Such moves are said 
to minimize interference problems in the white space.

The agency said:

The FCC's proposals will enable a substantial amount of spectrum use by 
unlicensed devices. A significant portion of this spectrum will be available on 
a nationwide basis, which is important because there currently is little or no 
white space in the TV bands in parts of many major markets. In making these 
proposals, the FCC seeks to promote greater innovation in new products and 
services, including increased access for wireless broadband services across the 

Stakeholders vying for the coveted white space spectrum include licensed users 
(current cellular network operators) and unlicensed users (offering products 
based on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and others).

Opponents to Super Wi-Fi argue that white space (and the additional open 
spectrum that becomes available as part of the spectrum auction) is best used 
to ease bandwidth problems.

Advocates of Super Wi-Fi, meanwhile, believe the initiative promoted by AIR.U 
is the best way to connect underserved communities with wireless broadband 
access without having to pay a monthly cellphone bill.

Bob Nichols, CEO of Declaration Networks Group (DNG), LLC and AIR.U co-founder, 
said in a statement, "Super Wi-Fi presents a lower-cost, scalable approachto 
deliver high capacity wireless networks." He explained that the company hopes 
to "lead the way for a new broadband alternative to provide sustainable models 
that can be replicated and extended to towns and cities nationwide."

Technology contributors

Helping to enable West Virginia University to become the Super Wi-Fi test site 
are: AIR.U co-founder Declaration Networks Group to manage network deployment; 
the West Virginia Network for Telecomputing to provide the fiber optic Internet 
backhaul for the network: and Adaptrum Inc., a San Jose-based start-up offering 
white space equipment designed to operate on vacant TV channels.

Microsoft and Google both provided early support for AIR.U's overall effort to 
spur innovation to upgrade the broadband available to underserved campuses and 
their surrounding communities.

West Virginia Univ. stated in its press release:

Because the unique propagation characteristics of TV band spectrum enables 
networks to broadcast Wi-Fi connections over several miles and over hilly and 
forested terrain, the FCC describes unlicensed access to vacant TV channels as 
enabling 'Super Wi-Fi' services.

For example, WVU can add additional Wi-Fi hotspots in other locations around 
campus where students congregate or lack connectivity today. Future 
applications include public Wi-Fi access on the PRT cars and machine-to-machine 
wireless data links supporting control functions of the PRT System.

This initial deployment, blanketing the WVU campus with Wi-Fi connectivity, 
will test equipment capabilities, system throughput and the performance of TV 
band frequencies in supporting broadband Internet applications.

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  • » [opendtv] EE Times: 'Super WiFi' Comes to WVU - Manfredi, Albert E