US regulator FCC has approved a proposal to free up the white space spectrum made vacant by the migration from analog to digital TV for unlicensed use.
The FCC said it had taken steps to free up the first significant block of spectrum made available for public use in over 20 years.
However, following submissions from broadcasters worried about interference, it eliminated the requirement for devices using TV bands to be able to detect signals from TV stations. Devices can instead rely on a database of vacant frequencies combined with geo-location methods to detect empty spectrum.
Wireless microphones and other low-power auxiliary services have been given two dedicated channels to prevent them from interfering with TV signals.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said the move could generate more than $7 billion (€5.2 billion) in economic value annually, noting that the first time the FCC made unlicensed spectrum available resulted in the creation of Wi-Fi.
“We know what the first major application [for white space spectrum] will be: super Wi-Fi. Super Wi-Fi is what it sounds like: Wi-Fi, but with longer range, faster speeds, and more reliable connections,” he said.
Other applications including telemedicine, smart grid technologies and “smart city” services such as traffic and water quality monitoring were being trialled, he added.
White space spectrum is the gap between TV broadcasts on the digital television band, freed up by the increased efficiency of digital over analog broadcasting.
The FCC first proposed to open up this spectrum in 2008, but met with opposition from broadcasters concerned about interference.
Its decision will prompt other comms regulators to look more closely at the possibilities of using freed-up TV spectrum.
Australian regulator ACMA recently said it was monitoring the issue, but its decision will depend on restack and wireless microphones.