Microsoft’s New ‘WhiteFi’ Leads Wi-Fi Surge

Published November 1, 2009

Microsoft has created a new advanced wi-fi system that takes advantage of unused TV airwaves and creates a wireless broadband network.

If the technology succeeds, it will further cut into municipal wi-fi networks, which are built on the assumption the market wasn’t providing good service.

Dubbed “WhiteFi,” the new wireless system got started last year when the Federal Communications Commission decided to allow unlicensed broadcasting devices to access unused television spectrum.

The unused television spectrum is commonly called TV “white space.”

Market Bridging Digital Divide

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) thinks TV spectrum networks such as Microsoft’s WhiteFi are going to enable more Americans to gain access to the Internet.

WhiteFi networks will “bridg[e] the digital divide in this country between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,'” Inslee said.

Robert McDowell, one of two Republicans serving on the five-person FCC, said he believes opening up TV white space to broadband devices such as the WhiteFi network is a positive market development.

“[This is] a giant leap for American consumers,” McDowell said.

Democrat FCC Commissioner Johnathan Adelstein agrees.

“White spaces are the blank pages on which we’ll write our broadband future,” Adelstein said.

Others on Board

Several other companies have indicated they are attempting to create and implement similar WhiteFi networks.

Google, for instance, is implementing one, and companies such as Philips and Motorola are designing new devices to take advantage of this new type of wi-fi system.

Thomas Cheplick ([email protected]) writes from Cambridge, Massachusetts.