Fed up of costly and slow WiFi that doesn’t reach far enough? Well, how does a super-fast, free nationwide WiFi signal sound?
Pretty good, right? Well, that’s exactly what scientists in Germany are proposing with their idea to liberate defunct TV station signals and broadcast free WiFi to the public.
Scientists from Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have found that TV frequencies no longer in use could be repurposed and used to transmit WiFi signals – essentially piggybacking on old infrastructure.
With more and more old television frequencies becoming available after the switch from analogue to digital, these newly liberated signals could be the saviours and heralds of the new faster internet age.
The German scientists have proposed that governments free-up these valuable low frequencies to broadcast WiFi across huge areas, with the idea being to make it as cost-effective as possible. This super WiFi coverage could theoretically span as far as several kilometres, compared to the meagre 100m on traditional WiFi.
Wireless data transfer usually takes place via wireless local area networks (WLAN) like WiFi. However, your WLAN connections are currently restricted to high frequencies of 2GHz and above, hence why they have a shorter, limited range.
Old TV frequencies tended to broadcast at a much lower range, anywhere between the 200 and 800 MHz spectrum. The 200-300 range is particularly valuable as the signal can transfer a long distance through solid objects, including buildings.
Many of these old TV frequencies are rather valuable due to the power and distance they can broadcast over. These frequencies are eagerly coveted by a number of companies, governmental departments and other organizations. Mobile phone networks and communications companies, as you might expect, are usually found leading the hunt.
In 2012, the UK officially ‘switched off’ its analogue TV signals to be replaced by digital TV. This essentially freed up the valuable 800MHz range which the government promptly sold off to be used as the UK’s 4G bandwidth. The sale of this bandwidth alone generated over £2billion in revenue for the government.
Before a government would even consider ‘freeing up’ these frequencies to a national WiFi service, it’s likely they would need persuading to turn down the vast sums of money offered by the telecommunication giants, instead handing it over to the ‘people’.
In India, Microsoft have come up with a rather interesting plan to use the ‘white space’ spectrum between existing TV channels to broadcast free WiFi to the populace. The technology is aimed at providing free wireless internet connectivity to poor, rural and remote areas of the country.
What’s the Advantage?
First of all, an entire country would get a free WiFi service almost everywhere there was a TV signal. Basically, nationwide coverage (-ish).
Super WiFi would effectively cut out the need for expensive mobile broadband services like 4G, meaning more people could work on the go. This, in turn, would likely drive up the digital economy of a country, as well as offering internet to those who previously couldn’t afford it.
Naturally, this might annoy the communications companies that had previously made money from 4G and other mobile internet networks, but for the rest of us… Free WiFi!