White spaces standards are here. Next up: devices!

Wed Jul 27, 2011 5:57pm EDT

Another hurdle was removed today for “Wi-Fi on steroids,” as the IEEE published a wireless standard that could bring high-speed broadband to rural areas. The 802.22TM-2011 standard will be used on frequencies that were used by analog television channels, but were freed up when the U.S. transitioned to digital television broadcasting over the air. Known as “white spaces” technology, the wireless standard supports transmissions speeds topping out at 22 Mbps per channel, with a range of up to 100 kilometers.

With the new standard now approved, hardware manufacturers have a blueprint to begin designing and building products that can use the upcoming wireless networks. Unlike the frequencies used by cellular network operators, the white spaces use unlicensed spectrum (just like today’s Wi-Fi networks), so a wide range of compatible devices are expected from many companies. This would make it far easier and cheaper for those in remote areas to gain faster Internet access, for example.

Schools and enterprises could use the technology to deploy campus-wide wireless networks more easily due to the extended range white-space networks could bring. Google and other companies interested in smart grids can benefit from intelligent, connected meters that shoot data directly to power distributors. And carriers could even supplement their current Wi-Fi offloads, which are very limited in range, with white-space networks. For more details on the potential uses of white-spaces, see our recent “everything you need to know” article.

On a more personal level, individual devices could gain a much greater range and connect directly to homes. I currently use a mobile broadband connection to manage the lights and temperature of my home, for example. But I’ve held off on adding some webcams for security and monitoring for package deliveries, simply because transmitting such video over a 3G or 4G connection will have me hit my data caps too quickly. With white-space devices and support, however, I could be miles from home and still keep an eye on things without worrying about monthly data caps.

We’ll be talking more about such connected devices and the networks they use at our two-day Mobilize event in September; with the new wireless standard now ratified, white-space networks are sure to factor into our conversations.

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