The onset of TV white-space broadband technology could bring high speed internet to the parts of the rural United States without broadband internet access. El Dorado County, California, also known as Gold Country, is partnering with internet providers in the region to bring the first commercial application of white-space technology to bring the area something more than dial-up.
More from cNet:
“Over 59,000 residents in our rural service area have had little or no quality Internet access,” Cal.net CTO Ken Garnett, who began investigating white space technology several years ago, said in a statement. “When I discovered Carlson, their White-Space network equipment was a quantum leap ahead of all other contenders. This new product allows us to serve a large contingent of these people.”
White spaces are essentially unlicensed sections of the spectrum. What companies are now able to do is keep track of in-use TV broadcast frequencies so that wireless broadband devices can take advantage of that unlicensed space. TV frequencies have powerful signals that are able to travel over mountainous and forested terrain.
The FCC unanimously agreed in November 2008 to open up this spectrum for unlicensed use. Experts say there could be between 300MHz to 400MHz of unused spectrum across the U.S. In 2010, the FCC approved new rules for using unlicensed white space, which included using databases to check for clear frequencies and ensure that devices do not interfere with existing broadcast TV license holders.
Several companies are working on building databases to make use of white space. Google began testing a new database in March. Spectrum Bridge and Telcordia have already completed their trials, and there are another 10 companies, including Microsoft, which are working on similar databases. Google also launched a trial program last month to use white space for providing wireless broadband in South African schools.
In Gold Country, the monthly service will cost users $54.95 per month with speeds of around 2 to 4 Mbps, according to Engadget, which first reported this story. Currently the service is only available in the vicinity of Swansboro, but Cal.net plans to extend its reach across the county in coming months.
If this technology is successful in Gold Country, further opening up of the broadband space could definitely benefit other rural areas in the United States. Stay tuned at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog as this story develops.