The FCC’s opportunity: Unleashing the potential of 'Super Wi-Fi'

Today, consumers across the country can watch over-the-air television using only their TV and an antenna, but not every channel in every regional market is used by broadcasters. What’s left is vacant spectrum referred to as “TV white spaces.” This spectrum varies from market to market, which in the past has made it challenging to use nationwide. But today’s technology makes it possible for wireless devices to identify their location at any given point in time, avoid interfering with existing users, and utilize only the available unused spectrum.

Today, the Federal Communications Commission is poised to finalize outstanding rules that will enable the use of white spaces to provide wireless broadband connectivity and exciting new user experiences. The right vote will spur growth and investment in a new generation of wireless broadband technologies. Our three companies applaud the FCC for seeking to capitalize on technological advances and embrace a new era in spectrum policy.

White spaces technologies will use frequencies that promise many times the range that existing Wi-Fi can generally achieve today, with improved penetration of walls, trees, and other obstacles. As a result, white space devices will be more cost-effective and enable better coverage, especially in rural areas. The unique benefits of white spaces will complement and extend existing broadband networks, and facilitate the emerging “Internet of Things” in which countless devices in the home, office and beyond seamlessly share data.

Technology companies are already working on new applications made possible by white spaces. These include whole-home wireless networks that could achieve the goal of wirelessly connecting every TV, laptop, appliance, or any other device; powering larger and more reliable commercial broadband hotspots; and augmenting wireless networks on university campuses.

A trial white spaces network in Wilmington, NC enables real-time traffic monitoring, video monitoring of parks, and remote monitoring and management of wetland areas. In rural Claudville, VA, another trial provides broadband internet access, while on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA, white spaces deliver broadband internet access for employees traveling from building to building throughout the campus. A hospital in Logan, OH is using white spaces to spark new applications in health care, while a utility company in Plumas-Sierra County, CA is using this spectrum to manage a “smart grid” wireless network.

These networks are already demonstrating the real-world potential of white space technologies. Without access to the white spaces – the last real chance for unlicensed spectrum in the prime frequencies below 1 GHz – many of these applications will not be fully or timely realized.

The right vote by the FCC will help the U.S. lead globally in white spaces technologies. Better devices and applications for consumers, a pro-investment and pro-innovation approach to wireless broadband policy, and taking a step to address the country’s future broadband needs – with this final vote the FCC will make a world of difference and we encourage them to act with the bold vision we’ve seen from them in the past.

Vint Cerf is Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google.
Jeff Clarke is Chairman, Operations & Technology at Dell.
Craig Mundie is the Chief Research and Strategy Officer of Microsoft Corporation.