Imagine a world where everyone is connected, with access to an infinite amount of information. Now imagine a technology that might bring us nearer to this vision. Based on utilizing unused broadcasting frequencies, in quite possibly the most significant development in wireless data exchange since Wi-Fi, White Space technology promises all that and more.
The idea is fairly simple. Telecommunication devices powered by this technology use unoccupied radio waves (white spaces) between TV channel frequencies to exchange wireless signals. And with applications that include city-wide data networks, M2M (machine to machine) communication, and rural access to wireless broadband, this simple idea has immense potential. Furthermore, the use of television white space means this signal combines a range that spans miles, with the ability to pass through obstacles. White Space broadband is also notably faster than traditional Wi-Fi, making it clear that this technology is set to revolutionize wireless networking as we know it.
But as with any new technology, a few logistical concerns still exist. Access to these white spaces, though unlicensed, must be restricted to avoid interference with existing channels, including paid broadcasts. However, a number of solutions are being developed and advanced— mapping of the white space spectrum, configuring of devices to utilize unoccupied white spaces—offsetting the risk of interference and unauthorized use. Pilot trials of the technology, in parts of the UK, Africa, and rural America have been error free and rather promising.
The most interesting benefit of white space technology is the ability to roll out inexpensive, reliable broadband access to the hitherto disconnected rural populace. A number of reasons have contributed to the technology’s rise in prominence in this area. The end of analogy TV, due to the switch to digital TV, has freed up the television broadcast spectrum. This space is even more noticeable in rural, underserved areas as fewer TV stations broadcast to these parts.
The prospect of bringing people online for the first time could have deep and far reaching consequences—social, economic, and even political. Examples of the ingenious ways in which these users employ their connectivity can be seen in the Libyan schoolgirls that plot maps to their school based on NATO bombing patterns, Pakistani acid attack victims that use PCs to build a community and a business, and the well publicized Egyptian Twitter revolution.
It is hard to ignore the radical change a connected world could bring. Access to schools, an online education, and peers across the globe could lead to the creation of an internet ready, tech-savvy, emergent workforce. Factor in the development of healthcare, rural arts and crafts, and connected communities, and the idea of using white spaces for wireless broadband is transformational.
White space broadband may not be the panacea for every woe, just as the Internet has not been, but it is a quantum leap in the right direction.
What do you think are the implications of a world more connected? Is this the next communication revolution? Please use the comments section below to have your say.