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RF bands for TV can enable 'super Wi-Fi'

Posted: 28 Nov 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Wi-Fi? WLAN? lower frequency bands?

Wi-Fi has become ubiquitous nowadays. Even carriers are looking at the so-called 'Carrier Wi-Fi' to offload data from their congested networks.

Currently, Wi-Fi is limited to high frequency ranges at 2GHz and above and, as a result, have a limited range. However, many lower frequency bands that were previously used for TV are being used less and less. Such bands are highly suited for penetrating obstacles such as walls, and are ideal for longer range networksenabling 'super-Wi-Fi'.

A study authored by Arnd Weber of the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) of KIT and Jens Elsner, a former member of the staff of the KIT Communications Engineering Lab, propose to extend the frequencies for free communication to include lower ranges and even increased transmission power. Due to the ability of RF energy to penetrate obstacles such as walls and buildings at lower frequencies and by automatically adapting transmission power to prevent interference, such WLAN networks might even reach communication partners at a distance of several kilometres.

Even in cities where the transmission capacity will be limited due to the large number of transmission stations, the range of wireless networks could be extended significantly. The networks could, for example, be made available to passers-by on neighbouring streets for transferring data to and from their smartphones.

"Implementation of our approach would have far-reaching consequences. Individuals, institutions, and companies would be far less dependent on expensive mobile communications networks in conducting their digital communication. This would also be of great economic benefit," said Weber.

However, Weber said a worldwide and broad debate about the approach is required because governments could also use the frequencies to extend the range of state-owned TV channels or auction them to mobile telephony providers at high prices. For this reason, Weber and Elsner propose discussing their approach at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC). This conference, organised by the United Nations, will meet again next year and decides on the use of radio frequencies at the global level.

Contradicting established economic theory

In accordance with the systems analysis approach used at ITAS, the study combines technical, social and economic perspectives. Its conclusion that low frequency ranges should, as common property, be made available at no cost contradicts an established economic theory represented by, for instance, the economist and Nobel Prize winner Ronald Coase, who died in 2013.

In his opinion, rights of use should be defined and sold on the market to achieve the optimal use of limited resources such as radio frequencies. According to the economist and political consultant Martin Cave, only the high GHz ranges where there is no risk of congestion should be opened to the public.

Elsner and Weber show in their study, in contrast, how such congestion can be prevented technically. They argue that the low-cost approach to electronic communication should be given preference to intensive commercialisation not only from the perspective of an individual, but also from that of the national economy. They suggest reserving a 90MHz interval in the UHF bands.

Apart from mobile communication for everyone, applications such as "programme making and special events" technology might profit, for instance stage microphones and cameras, which could then transmit digitally instead of using niches of the TV spectrum with analogue technology. Use by disaster relief services is also conceivable.

- Jean-Pierre Joosting
??EE Times Europe

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