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Residents in New Hanover County in Wilmington, North Carolina have become the first in the country to have access to a Super Wi-Fi network. As the first county to successfully transition from analog to digital television signal transmission, officials felt that it only made sense that they were the first to get the new wireless standard.
“Super Wi-Fi” is a term that was created by the Federal Communications Commission to describe a mobile data network that utilizes “white spaces” spectrum. The FCC first authorized unlicensed use of this spectrum in 2008. According to Network World, the spectrum’s low band frequency allows for signals to travel further and penetrate more obstacles than a traditional Wi-Fi network is capable of.
White spaces are sections of unlicensed spectrum that are currently unused by television stations found on the VHF (Very High Frequency) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency) bands. Last fall the FCC removed a limitation that required devices operating on TV bands to have embedded sensors that would shut down the device if it came into contact with an existing TV signal. These sensors were initially added to satisfy concerns from broadcasters about unlicensed use of white space degrading their broadcast quality.
New regulations outline that adding geolocation capability and giving a device access to a spectrum database should be enough to protect against interference with TV signals.
But as PC Mag points out, the name itself is a bit deceptive as Super Wi-Fi isn’t super nor Wi-Fi. White space radios will likely use a new standard called 802.22 for “regional area networks.” This of course is different from traditional 802.11 Wi-Fi “local area network” configurations. Furthermore, since the technology operates on a much lower frequency, it will result in slower connection speeds with the primary benefit being improved range.
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