As mentioned within a press release earlier today, the first commercial “Super Wi-Fi” network was launched in Wilmington, North Carolina. Called the “first FCC-approved smart city”, the city is utilizing the white space spectrum located between TV channels to provide wireless access across a public portion of Hugh MacRae park. Due to the lower frequency band, these Wi-Fi signals can travel through varied terrain including buildings and trees. This allows public organizations to setup equipment without the need for line-of-sight. However, speeds are reduced to 10 to 15 Mbps due to the changing landscape. While many current devices can access the network when in close range of the network hardware, commercial devices built for white space access are still at least a year away.
In addition to covering the city park with a free Wi-Fi network, city officials are also using the network to monitor a popular city garden through four video cameras. Some of the cameras can be accessed by the public to check out the garden online and other cameras will be used to monitor the parking lot for security. The city has further plans to utilize the white space spectrum to manage public lighting, water quality monitors, flood valves and river water sensors. By using cameras to monitor areas where flooding may occur, they can respond quicker to the situation.
While residents of Wilmington, North Carolina will still have to rely on broadband Internet services for now, potential speeds of the white space spectrum can reach up to 22 Mbps per channel with a range up to 62 miles. The company in charge of the rollout, Spectrum Bridge, believes that the white space spectrum will eventually be used to manage other city problems such as traffic congestion and energy usage. While the National Association of Broadcasters has frequently argued that allowing consumers to access the white space spectrum will cause havoc on network broadcasts, advocates of using the spectrum want to bring wireless access to rural, under-served areas across the United States.