First "Super Wi-Fi" White Space Spectrum Network Deployed In North Carolina

Brad Chacos

After years of hemming, hawing and waiting for televisions to make the jump to digital, the very first "Super Wi-Fi" network went live in Wilmington, North Carolina yesterday. Now, Super Wi-Fi is a bit of a misnomer: the technology isn't really Wi-Fi at all -- it utilizes unused "white space" spectrum in the analog T.V. bands, instead -- and it's waaaaay slower than normal Wi-Fi to boot, with speeds up to 22 Mbps. So why is Super Wi-Fi's launch such a big deal?

Advocates hope Super Wi-Fi ( or IEEE standard 802.22 ) will be a way to bring broadband to rural areas that currently have few Internet connectivity options. (Some places in the U.S. still only have DSL or even *shudder* dial-up connections available.) While Super Wi-Fi is slower than traditional Wi-Fi, it's able to transmit over much, much, much longer distances thanks to its lower frequency -- just over 62 miles, in fact. Super Wi-Fi can also beam through physical objects like trees and walls, which gives normal Wi-Fi fits.

Critics used to worry that the signal could interfere with T.V. signals, but between the death of analog T.V. and thorough testing and specifications, that isn't much of a concern any longer. These initial tests will help engineers roll out any kinks in the technology.

Wilmington was chosen as a test bed because it was also a test bed for making the switch to digital T.V. signals -- so it's analog bands are clean, sparse and eagerly awaiting to be used to find pr0n and LOLcatz. This initial experiment will be providing wireless connectivity in two local parks as well as power four wireless cameras in the parks. Forbes' Elizabeth Woyke says the next step of roll-out will allow the city to "remotely manage creek and river water sensors, water quality monitors, flood valves and public lighting."

Do you think Super Wi-Fi will catch on?

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