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Free Super WiFi

super wifi headerFed 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.

Radio Frequency

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.

Valuable RangeTV antenna

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’.

 

Microsoft

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!

rf freq title

 

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Danny Young

Features Editor

39 comments

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  1. Alan 9 February, 2015 at 15:22

    A fantastic idea, but not one that will happen in the UK. As our government will only sell it off to their mates for a ridiculously low sum. And they will all have a good chance of making a few quid for thmeselves.

  2. Bill 9 February, 2015 at 16:09

    Also longer range signals would make tracking the users more difficult. I doubt governments would be too keen on that.

  3. fc360 9 February, 2015 at 16:49

    That’ll probably not happen in UK since the frequencies they are on about are now used for 4g. The thing is they could use 4g to do the same as what this article is talking about. Also title is misleading as it won’t be free super WiFi as its not WiFi its a different technology.

  4. Phil Spencelayh 9 February, 2015 at 18:41

    Sounds ok until you think that for proper use of wifi your device needs to be able to transmit to the infrastructure. This means a fair amount of power for the transmitter in your ‘phone or computer and for a moderately effective aerial which would be necessary it should be approx a quarter wavelength long which at 800mhz is about 9cm , ok for a desk top but I cant see many people accepting that sticking out of their I phone

  5. Brian Jones 12 February, 2015 at 10:20

    Fed up of costly and slow WiFi that doesn’t reach far enough? Come on, let’s try and use English, it’s fed up WITH not of!

  6. Peter Watkinson 12 February, 2015 at 11:06

    It’s a shame that the UK government sold off the frequencies to make a quick profit as 4G is obsolete before it even got off the ground. It comes at a high price to the consumer with a very low level of coverage.

  7. Steve 12 February, 2015 at 11:39

    err… ok use the masts, but they only have transmitters, no receivers, and while we are at it, we would need new ‘super’ wifi dongles with a powerful transmitter and decent aerial (meaning a 3-4″ antenna) to get back to the receiver (which doesn’t yet exist) at the old tv transmitting station… doh, should have saved this one for April 1st.

  8. A Vamos 12 February, 2015 at 13:01

    Hold on a sec. The TV broadcasting is a one way channel. The Wi-Fi (internet) uses both directions. This “news” doesn’t tell a word about the how to handle the communication backward from the endpoints/users.

  9. Adrian 12 February, 2015 at 13:09

    And how long will my phone/tablet/laptop battery last if I’m connecting to a base station that is 50km away?

  10. Chris 12 February, 2015 at 13:40

    Very poor idea.
    The higher frequencies are able to pack in much more data, with frequencies of between 200 and 800 MHz and more than 10 people in the country using it you’d be lucky to download a single webpage in an hour!
    Ok so that is exaggerating a bit, but it is going to be oh so slow, and as Phil mentioned above TV transmitters are one directional – in order to request a web page/file/whatever your device is going to need to be able to transmit, which means more powerful (hence bigger) transmitters in your device, plus there will be a whole new infrastructure needed of receivers to receive what the users transmit.
    Totally bad idea.

  11. bart 12 February, 2015 at 13:46

    i am using RELISH broadband which comes without the land line and the speed is just under 30 which is going to get much better well thats what there told me
    my old broadband with land line is 5 at the best [EE]
    RELISH your views on this would be most welcome
    i live in London within 1 mile of the city of London

  12. Nate 12 February, 2015 at 16:03

    That’s a very poorly researched and written article. Nothing to do with WiFi (normal WiFi devices won’t be able to connect) and not sensible (WiFi is not efficient above tens of users, let alone thousands).

    4G would be the current best technology available with economies of scale and wide equipment support.

    Went do you expect the cost to be free? Whatever equipment is used will have a cost and someone will need to meet pay that as well as running costs.

    This could be used to reduce mobile Internet costs, but not by an order of magnitude. Probably just the current licence cost.

    The writer seems to have little understanding of any aspects outside of his home WiFi enabled router.

  13. Anonymous 13 February, 2015 at 09:00

    It won’t work because of technical reasons, you wouldn’t be able to have anymore people using it than could use your home WiFi before it grinds to a halt. And another major technical issue is that your laptop computer would need a full size television transmitter mast, otherwise it wouldn’t be able to log on if it was 50 miles or so away from the newly converted WiFi ex television transmitter. WiFi relies on two way communication…

  14. STOP BIT 13 February, 2015 at 13:38

    It’s only taken 17 years from when I first learnt this technology was possible to see governments and companies attempt to utilise this valuable waste of white-space, whilst studying my Electronic Communications Diploma. Now that’s a long time in anybody’s book! Come on technologists – this is OLD tech, but I am glad to finally see changes starting to happen.

  15. Valiant Dickson 20 February, 2015 at 12:39

    The technology is there You would retrofit the old antennas with the receivers and transmitter and the low frequency spectrum would have a large radius and good coverage there is another possibility using the current free 2.4 and 5ghz spectrum you can currently buy a wireless access point that can go up to 50 kms without breaking any rules (directional antenna which means at home you would have to have a perfectly aligned antenna pointed in the right direction which would then be another access point to duplicate the signal around your house this access point could probably go further on top of a high antenna you can run a multi antenna array several hundred or thousand antennas in an array on top of the old transmitter towers current contention ratio on broadband is about 20-1 so using wireless ac if you install and array of 1000 antennas you can have 200,000 people with 100 meg wifi broadband

  16. Anthony 20 February, 2015 at 14:33

    This sounds like a Tesla idea! He wanted to give the world free power!!
    But JP Morgan and Rothchild didn’t like that idea.. considering they profiting from providing the electric to so many people.

    Free electric they said?!? Are you crazy!!!

    Not long after… Tesla died.. and the FBI stole all his research and locked it away and patented it.

    Like a idea such as this would be able to take off without the big ISP’s lobbying for it to be closed down!!

    If only the world was run by prophets and not for profit.

  17. Alasdair Klyne 12 March, 2015 at 11:34

    This idea has been around for a while and it is very valid to say that it may only practically be a one way medium. But content streaming (noir including the bit where you negotiate what you want to stream) is one way traffic, so perhaps if streaming used this technology it would drastically reduce the traffic on the regular internet medium, hence freeing up huge amounts of bandwidth. One size does not usually fit all, and who really cares if we have another receiver box by the router with a 10cm aerial, or perhaps built into the router.
    On another note this type of WiFi could make better sense over the current distances we enjoy as it will pass through the kitchen wall. I have BT Infinity 2 at home and the WiFi is still pretty poor.

  18. Wahid 12 March, 2015 at 12:27

    They have this in Dubai with ‘free’ WiFi.
    But there is a limit per-day. Better then nothing…

  19. Steve 12 March, 2015 at 13:46

    Unfortunately the idea doesn’t hold up because you still need to have a return path (for you to send email or even to select a web page).

    A typical TV transmitter site could cover a radius of 30-50 miles. That would mean that to transmit back on the same radio frequencies you would need quite a lot of equipment and power especially as distance increases.

    The only way an idea like this would work is if the return path is via a telephone line or a mobile line as long as you have a reasonable upload speed.
    Before any one laughs, remember that on adsl the download speed to you is typically 8Mbit/s whilst the upload speed might be 256k or 512k and this work fine for many people.

  20. CROC 12 March, 2015 at 13:55

    The low countries have had free wi-fi in their cities for years, WI-MAX……The UK didn’t want to give it’s citizens something for free when Companies could charge huge fees for it and make billions, which they then pay little or no tax revenue on……Guido was truly the only one to enter parliament with the right idea.

  21. Anonymous 24 March, 2015 at 11:39

    Four years ago a trial was conducted using white space with technology developed in the UK .It worked, and even the emergency services were interested. Unfortunately it was too radical to qualify for RCBF funding (less than £1m to cover about one hundred square miles for a full scale network).
    The promised rollout of an alternative service is still awaited!!

  22. Neil Leese 1 June, 2015 at 22:49

    Do you seriously think a Tory government renowned for selling off public Utilities to the private sector is going to give a valuble public asset to the public. Dream on but try not to use mind altering drugs before going to work.

  23. Ken 29 June, 2015 at 16:38

    Just to agree with all the others; The establishment will sell the thing to their mates, who will screw us for every penny, give us lousy service, employ foreign call centres, and have massive input to our lives. Just like all the other stuff in this most corrupt of all countries in the world today.

  24. Nick 30 June, 2015 at 11:38

    It’s just like Communism. Great in theory but not in practice. Especially when money is involved!

  25. Anonymous 30 June, 2015 at 12:04

    i agree a great idea , but it will never be made , for the people as it would cause too much negative proffit for the telecom companies , what with the new iphone 6 recieving calls over a WiFi now no one would ever buy a cellular contract again , it wowuld be financial suicide for the mobile companies.

    A better idea would be to sell off the onfrastructure currently used by all 4 major networks to a separate network company and not have the competition of frequancies on the same towers that degrade signals , much the same as bt openreach does with our land lines why can we not have bt cellular controll the towers and make rural area with better coverage.

  26. Seth 20 October, 2015 at 04:29

    Similar technology is already in use on the isle of man. Bluewave retrofitted tv masts with receivers and transmit over the island. It’s only useful for home broadband as the users antenna is pretty big and power hungry.

  27. Chris 27 October, 2015 at 10:57

    Had a similar thing tested in annan a few years back, wasnt worth it atall, waste of £150k, would have been better investing it in fttc or fttp.

  28. Brian 2 November, 2015 at 13:10

    What ever happened to wiimax I know of one company who use this ( v.fast ) in the southeast. Why aren’t we all using it. Where one aerial can reach 60 odd miles . It beyond me why mobile phone company’s don’t use it .

    Regards Brian Chivers

  29. Anonymous 12 November, 2015 at 11:43

    Couldn’t agree more, ‘liberalisation of markets’ has meant we will always be paying through the nose and should expect to be ripped off. Are there any privatised services where we are getting value for money and is there any real competition in markets except from the likes of Aldi and Lidl?

  30. Mark 14 November, 2015 at 10:59

    Everyone saying it won’t work because WiFi is a two way street, well, so is 4G, and that works ! The point is the frequency, not the infrastructure, any project such as this would need massive investment in local antennae just as the mobile industry have done to bring you 4G. That is why it will never get off the ground as a free service.

  31. Anonymous 30 July, 2016 at 09:53

    Features Editor who can’t use English Grammar? How did you get the job? “Fed up of costly and slow WiFi”
    fed up with not OF!

  32. jim 24 November, 2016 at 02:32

    Sounds like someone is going to kick this to the curb. If you think the big internet supplier are going to let this happen you’ve got another thing coming……
    And we all know someone in our government is bought by big internet supplier’s.

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