A different flavor of wireless network is on the way to 500 colleges and universities in the United States, under a contract awarded to integrator Declaration Networks by a consortium of colleges called AIR.U, organized to help popularize ‘Super Wi-Fi’ on college campuses.
Super Wi-Fi works the same way as normal wireless networks, but on different frequencies. Rather than find bandwidth in an increasingly crowded wireless spectrum, Super Wi-Fi is tuned to unused frequencies within the block of the wireless spectrum dedicated to local TV broadcasts.
The range of frequencies is wider than standard WiFi and uses frequencies with effective ranges as long as five miles, rather than the 300 feet or so that ordinary WiFi can manage.
The decision to use it is a response to the need to relieve wireless network congestion on college campuses and in their surrounding communities, according to Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at the New America Foundation and a co-founder of AIR.U.
West Virginia University will get the first installation of SuperWi-Fi; other universities can sign up after the first installation proves the concept.
Among the backers of Super Wi-Fi is former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, who pitched it as a way to create powerful, free WiFi networks covering the entire country with enough bandwidth to provide free, ubiquitous wireless voice and Internet connections.
“Freeing up unlicensed spectrum is a vibrantly free-market approach that offers low barriers to entry to innovators developing the technologies of the future and benefits consumers,” Genachowski told The Washington Post.
Super Wi-Fi connections signals would come in via modified TV antennas rather than through cable connections and local wireless routers.
The first Super Wi-Fi network was installed in Hanover, N.C. in 2012. Routers and NICs, and even Android apps supporting it, have hit the market, but its spread has been slow.
West Virginia University began installing the network in July as a pilot test for the larger AIR.U community.
The protocol is designed for speeds as high as 1Gbit/sec, but runs as slowly in practice as 29Mbit/sec, according to EETimes.