White spaces broadband uses the wireless airwaves ‘between’ television channels that are now available for other uses, thanks to the transition to digital TV. The first deployment of broadband technology using TV white spaces occurred just last week in Wilmington, N.C.

But white spaces broadband isn’t a real catchy phrase, so some people in the industry have begun to use the term super Wi-Fi, due in part to the notion that white spaces broadband is a ‘souped up’ version of Wi-Fi, with greater range for broadband access than today’s ubiquitous Wi-Fi.

One potential snag in that characterization – the WiFi Alliance which has trademark rights to the term Wi-Fi doesn’t like the approach. “The Wi-Fi Alliance supports efforts to use the unlicensed spectrum known as Television White Spaces to expand connectivity. However, there is currently no Wi-Fi technology that operates in this spectrum,” said Wi-Fi Alliance Marketing Director Kelly Davis-Felner in a Wi-Fi Alliance press release. “It is important that users not be misled into confusing any such technology with Wi-Fi.”

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The Wi-Fi Alliance goes on to make these points regarding the brewing controversy:

  • The technology touted as “Super Wi-Fi” does not interoperate with the billions of Wi-Fi devices in use today
  • Today’s deployments in Television White Spaces do not deliver the same user experience as is available in Wi-Fi hotspots and home networks
  • Wi-Fi is a registered trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance and the term “Super Wi-Fi” is not an authorized extension of the brand
  • Wi-Fi Alliance discourages the use of Wi-Fi in a manner that could confuse consumers

You wonder whether this is a classic case of the ‘genie is already out of the bottle.’ Super Wi-Fi may already be the defacto descriptor for white spaces broadband. Everyone in tech and most consumers will understand what that term means – maybe not the true technical details – but the experience.

Of course, maybe we’re all a little ahead of ourselves, considering the first white spaces broadband network just launched last week, and there’s hardly any real world evidence that the technology will deliver on its promise of a super Wi-Fi experience. Do you think White-Fi might catch on?

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4 thoughts on “Not So Fast Super Wi-Fi

  1. I’m not surprised the WiFi Forum is getting upset about the bandying about of the term “Super Wi-Fi.”

    I’ve seen some people referring to the Wilmington deployment as Super Wi-Fi, but when I covered that launch last week, I deliberately didn’t use the term because the technology used in the launch does not meet the definition of Super Wi-Fi as it has explained to me by Spectrum Bridge, the company that pioneered white spaces technology.

    The Wilmington deployment is really an extension of traditional WiFi technology. The white spaces spectrum is used between the base station and a landline broadband POP.

    Super Wi-Fi, as it has been known to date, refers to a technology not expected to be on the market for 12-18 months that uses white spaces spectrum between the base station and the end user, thereby offering functionality akin to today’s WiFi but with greater performance.

    Let’s make sure we use the term “Super Wi-Fi” correctly—at least until someone comes up with a better phrase for it.

  2. Is it truly "Super" WiFi? Not really – greater range, but not greater speed; in fact slower – Max 802.22 data rate is 22Mbps on a 6MHz channel. The term "Super-WiFi" would seem to imply all the same great 802.11/a/b/g/n WiFi data rates and at greater range – 60 miles as some have hyped! This of course will not happen. It will indeed be an exciting new and useful – perhaps even affordable tool for nomadic and even rural broadband delivery, but let's keep it in perspective.

  3. Super Wi-Fi (a term coined by the FCC, I believe) should not imply that the technology is faster or offers a larger pipe.

    Instead, its "super" properties are in its propagation characteristics, which equal greater range and better coverage because the signal can get around obstacles like foliage and hills.

    This is going to be the best and most affordable solution yet for rural broadband — because it requires little infrastructure and works well n remote areas.

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