Bit of a political one this time. A debate in the offing over how best to re-use the lower frequency TV signals that digital telly is making redundant.

Currently, wireless data transmission largely takes place via WLAN networks, such as Wi-Fi that use the high frequency ranges of 2.4 GHz and above. A wireless access point is generally limited to a range of about 20 meters depending on disruptive obstacles such as walls and the like. Although the theoretical range is about 100 meters, wider hot-spots are usually achieved by linking these access points.

However, it is possible for internet access to be delivered wirelessly using the lower frequency ranges known as the ‘white space’ between TV channels . And this is exciting because ‘white space’ broadband can travel up to 10 kilometers and through solid objects with little interference. Wonderful … if we choose to adopt it.

And herein lies the contention. This white space operates on a similar spectrum to that being used by 4G. Traditionally, governments sell these frequencies off to the highest bidder, most likely the larger private telecommunications companies and use the revenue to fund other services as per the established economic theory. A recent study by scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany suggests there may be another way to go.

Their study, published in the international journal Telecommunications Policy, combines technical, social, and economic perspectives to form the conclusion that some of these frequencies should, as common property, be made available at no cost to extend existing wireless networks. Radical stuff, at least for countries like the UK and US.

90% of the UK and 85% of the US has internet access already, the infrastructure is in place and being improved at some expense. In India, where only 20% of the population currently has access to the internet and about a billion people are waiting for it, the cost of this infrastructure is prohibitive and the decision to invest in Super WiFi is easier. Indeed, Microsoft have proposed to bring free Super WiFi internet to all of India and are due to pilot the initiative in two districts very soon.

The authors of the study, Arnd Weber and Jens Elsner, believe this less commercialised approach will in fact produce great national economic benefits for the countries that adopt it, that the individuals, institutions, and companies will utilize, innovate and develop in the same way as they did when the existing WLAN frequencies were opened.

It’s hard not to believe. The economic growth the world is looking for should be underpinned by innovation and development more than exploring what more the markets can bear. Adoption of this might shift the economic landscape of the world significantly but convincing some governments to take this longer term view may not be so easy.

Weber and Elsner plan to make their case at the UN World Radiocommunication Conference in November 2015. We will be watching for the reaction with baited breath.

In the meantime, TwistedPair are keen to help with improving your internet connectivity today and we can help you take advantage of the government funding currently available.

Visit our Network page for more information.

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