Super Wi-Fi vs. Wireless Mesh Networks

Super Wi-Fi

Super Wi-Fi is a US FCC term referring to the use of unused television spectrum to provide regional-area wireless broadband internet. It can provide broadband coverage to areas up to 50 miles in diameter radius, depending upon signal power and antenna quality.

A brand-new “Super Wi-Fi” technology — called WATCH (Wi-Fi in Active TV Channels) — promises even better broadband wi-fi coverage for urban areas.

Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules for unlicensed services in TV and 600 MHz bands — a.k.a. television’s “white space.” The new rules, as described by the FCC, “will permit unlicensed fixed and personal/portable white space devices and unlicensed wireless microphones to use channels in the 600 MHz and television broadcast bands.” …

… Even two years ago, it was recognized that the white space spectrum could offer cost-effective wireless broadband connectivity in rural areas and for machine-to-machine communications, according to a Strategy Analytics report at that time.

… The UHF spectrum, which ranges from 400 to 700 MHz, is superior to the higher-frequency signals used for existing Wi-Fi hotspots, the researchers said, as these signals carry for miles and are not blocked by walls or trees.

… The technology that lead researcher Edward Knightly and Rice graduate student Xu Zhang developed is called “Wi-Fi in Active TV Channels,” or WATCH. They received FCC approval to test it at the Rice campus in 2014, basing it on WARP, or “wireless open-access research platform.”

The bottom line about WATCH: it requires no coordination with or changes to legacy TV transmitters, according to the researchers. It also solves a very practical problem. Most of the UHF band is already taken in U.S. cities, but still is largely underutilized.

More on WATCH Super Wi-Fi

German proposal for similar broadband wireless in Europe

Wireless Mesh Network Broadband

Neighborhood Wireless

Neighborhood Wireless using Open Mesh

Wireless mesh broadband networks are smaller and more informal. Useful for neighborhoods, campuses, and for mobile convoys and impromptu field operations.

Making Mesh Networks:

The basic idea is that by uniting a community on a shared network with no central access point, you can share the huge amounts of unused and inefficiently allocated bandwidth that gets paid for and wasted every day. ISPs, after all, are not doing a good job (or any kind of job) at this allocation: power users pay exorbitant fees and are viewed by ISPs as a problem, low-income users have few if any options for affordable service, and the average person pays for far more bandwidth than they ever use. Few cities can or will offer municipal wi-fi, and those that try often do a pretty poor job of it.

A mesh network lets a community fix all that on its own. The average home or business now has a bunch of powerful wireless networking equipment sitting in a corner to serve a handful of computers and devices — but what if those homes and businesses used that equipment to connect to each other, to turn all their little networks into one big one and extend it throughout the city? The possibilities are huge…

Mesh networks won’t just revolutionize how we connect to the internet — they are poised to become a powerful and vibrant part of the the global information network in their own right.

A wireless mesh network (WMN) is a communications network made up of radio nodes organized in a mesh topology. It is also a form of wireless ad hoc network. Wireless mesh networks often consist of mesh clients, mesh routers and gateways. The mesh clients are often laptops, cell phones and other wireless devices while the mesh routers forward traffic to and from the gateways which may, but need not, connect to the Internet. The coverage area of the radio nodes working as a single network is sometimes called a mesh cloud. Access to this mesh cloud is dependent on the radio nodes working in harmony with each other to create a radio network. A mesh network is reliable and offers redundancy. When one node can no longer operate, the rest of the nodes can still communicate with each other, directly or through one or more intermediate nodes. Wireless mesh networks can self form and self heal. Wireless mesh networks can be implemented with various wireless technology including 802.11, 802.15, 802.16, cellular technologies or combinations of more than one type. __ Wikipedia Wireless Mesh

How one group built a low-cost wi-fi mesh network

Connecting communities in this way could be very useful in emergencies, as well as for things like yard sales, Craig’s List, community news blogs, etc.

Open-Mesh is one form of “community-scale” wireless mesh networking. It is “cloud-managed,” utilising a range of indoor and outdoor access point devices.

The Byzantium mesh network project

The goal of Project Byzantium is to develop a communication system by which users can connect to each other and share information in the absence of convenient access to the Internet. This is done by setting up an ad-hoc wireless mesh network that offers services which replace popular websites often used for this purpose, such as Twitter and IRC. __

Download Byzantium

More technological solutions for wireless community networks

Bottom Line

You can build a neighborhood or community mesh network today, with simple wireless components. You can buy a proprietary system, or build a system out of smart phones, laptops, etc etc. It will take some work, but it is doable, and may come in handy in case of zombie apocalypse.

A Super Wi-Fi network, on the other hand, involves more expensive equipment — for use over a much broader area (up to 50 miles radius). Setting up such a network would involve getting approval from several government agencies, including the US FCC. Super Wi-Fi is the most promising candidate for bringing broadband to the rural US, where most companies — except satellites — fear to tread.

Modern-gen satellite providers are too slow, and charge a premium for bandwidth. A better option is sorely needed for those wide open spaces, where survival compounds and Dangerous Communities are sprouting up all over.

Readers’ suggestions would be welcome.

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