White-space WiFi trial underway in Houston

Technology takes advantage of unused spectrum allocated for television.

Researchers at Rice University have set up the first WiFi hotspot using "white space," the wireless spectrum that is allocated for television but not used. Rice University is teaming with the Houston nonprofit grou Technology For All (TFA) to make the white-space WiFi available. Houston resident Leticia Aguirre is the first user, and the groups says they plan to add more links in Aguirre's neighborhood int he months ahead.

The researchers at Rice are calling the technology "Super WiFi," but Network World reporter John Cox, for one, rejects that term.

Rice professor Edward Knightly explains that the research is taking place with federal support from the National Science Foundation. "Ultimately we want to develop this technology in such a way that it benefits the most people by accessing the right spectrum for the right users," he says. "Having Mrs. Aguirre as our first user really shows the potential benefits for people who've been underserved with traditional broadband."

According to information provided by Rice University, Aguirre signed up for a free community broadband WiFi network, also established by Rice and TFA, in 2004. That network now serves a three-square-mile area but Aguirre lives at the network's edge and has never received a good signal at her home.

TFA's president and chief executive officer boasts of the white-space WiFi technology as "a quantum leap" in terms of user experience. He also says it is significant that this trial is taking place in a community-broadband setting, because "this technology has a real potential to break down barriers and bring broadband to underserved urban and rural communities."

See a YouTube video of the white-space WiFi deployment at Leticia Aguirre's residence.

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