Scientists suggest looking to the recent past to help meet growing demand for wireless Internet access.
German researchers have published a new study that suggests making disused television frequencies available for free – and powerful – mobile communications networks.
Governments have considered auctioning off those old TV frequencies as networks switch over from analog to digital transmission, but researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology suggested they be freed up entirely to transmit wireless data.
Wi-Fi transmitted over old TV frequencies could be transmitted at lower frequencies than most wireless networks, which are typically transmitted over wireless local area networks at frequencies of 2GHz or above.
These lower frequencies would essentially create “super Wi-Fi” that could cover much wider areas than pricey mobile services such as 4G, the researchers found.
That would greatly expand wireless Internet use and carry many economic benefits, the study showed.
About one-third of the world’s population is currently online, but a recent poll found about 80 percent of people in 24 countries believe Internet access is a basic human right.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a likely Democratic presidential candidate, recently said that wireless Internet access was a basic human right – which the United Nations also affirmed in 2011, following the Arab Spring uprisings.
Seattle’s socialist city councilor, Kshama Sawant, wants the city to consider providing Wi-Fi access in homeless camps.
The German researchers plan to make their case to world leaders next year at the UN World Radiocommunication Conference.
They argue that Wi-Fi carried over old TV frequencies could penetrate walls and be automatically adapted to prevent interference, and they said their plan would carry great public safety benefits during disaster scenarios to go along with economic gains.
Many digital activists argue that telecommunications frequencies are common property and should be available free of charge, but that view faces stiff opposition from telecommunications providers and government officials.
The researchers hope they can convince government leaders that the long-term gains of opening up expanded Wi-Fi networks outstrips the short-term gains that would come from auctioning off the disused frequencies.