Filling up the white space frequency gap

In case you missed it, there was a historic vote in early November. Presidential politics aside, I'm referring to the vote on FCC order 08-260 for unlicensed use of "white space."

White space is the term that describes the unused frequency gap that exists between current analog broadcast television channels. Most of us know in February all broadcast television signals are going digital. When February comes, the old analog channel frequency spectrum becomes almost instantly available.

The FCC decision opens the door for the development of medium-range wireless network devices. For rural America it means the possibility of low-cost, high-speed wireless internet access with the ability to stretch over significant distance. That means broadband level access for areas that do not have it now.

Current makers of some wireless devices were not thrilled with the change. Those devices, such as microphones, currently operate in the white space range but do not interfere with current television signals because they have very low output power. The new, as of yet, undeveloped devices will be higher powered.

With everything competing in an unlicensed spectrum there is the potential for a lot of interference. The FCC hopes to control potential interferences by creating a database that will use geolocation to determine open frequencies and hold each transmitter responsible for frequency coordination. In theory, only open frequencies would be used by transceivers and therefore result in no interference. In some ways it sounds like a wireless "land grab" of sorts. Time will tell if the FCC puts forth a fair system to handle all the logistics.

The folks who currently suffer through the pain of ultra low-speed dialup for Internet access now have something to cheer about. For more info do a search for "FCC 08-260".

Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in company repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at ron@ronpoland.com.

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