White space spectrum unveiled in Port City
January 26, 2012By Andrew Gray
Wilmington is officially the home to the world’s first commercial white space network. At a press conference at the Wilmington Hilton Thursday, officials from the city, county and the Federal Communications Commission along with representatives from private companies announced the launch of the next generation of wireless technology.
The white space initiative uses the frequency that once broadcast analog television signals. New Hanover County was the first in the country to transition to an all-digital signal for TV and now the analog space is being used for next generation pilot programs.
“Wilmington was the first city in the nation to transition from analog to digital. The unused spectrum represents a valuable opportunity for the provisioning of wireless data service,” said Alan Stillwell, FCC deputy chief. “One-third of the population does not have broadband at home. At the FCC we are trying to use all the levers at our disposal to meet these goals.”
Ted Davis, Chairman of New Hanover County Commissioners explained that as part of this first program, the county has provided public wireless at Hugh McCrae park, security cameras at Airlie Gardens and has replaced a costly data connection at the landfill.
White space technology provides the long-range data connections at the park and traditional wi-fi provides the end point data connection so anyone with a traditional device can access the Internet via the system.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo explained that the technology has the potential for a wide range of additional services for the city and country including, citizen’s Internet access, crime prevention and law enforcement, medical emergencies, traffic control and environmental monitoring. Saffo gave the example of police cameras as a place where white space can lower the cost of city services.
“It used to cost $20,000 to install a camera, but today we can move the camera around very cheaply,” he said.
According to Larry Blumenfeld, founder of Access Control Consultants, the company responsible for installing the video cameras at Airlie Gardens, the biggest challenge to installing the video equipment is that the technology is not completely mature.
“We installed prototype equipment,” he said.
However, the advantages of the white space network were apparent. “All the wireless that we did [before this] was all line-of-sight. If anything blocks that narrow band, it blocks the signal.”
But, with white space, this is not an issue.
“You can not see the antennas. The picture quality is excellent,” he said.