There is a reason the Bells have sicced their friends on the idea of open spectrum.
It can kill them.
Some hints of how easily and quickly this could be done arrived in my inbox this morning.
- 802.11n, a 100 Mbps WiFi system using a technology called MIMO, was approved by an IEEE working group. What this means, as Brian White of The Wireless Report notes, is 100 Mbps WiFi on the shelves of your local store, at popular prices, as early as this Christmas.
- Bills were introduced to let unlicensed services ride the space between digital TV stations.
- Rome, Georgia is studying plans to install a WiFi cloud throughout the city. This movement to install WiFi is nationwide, it’s coming from the ground up, and it’s becoming harder-and-harder for the Bells to control.
What does this mean? For starters, it means people putting 100 MBps LANs in their living rooms, and wondering why their Internet is still so slow. In other words, it means demand for faster broadband than the cable operators and Bell companies are willing to provide.
But the second proposal may be more important. The 802.11 bands are microwave frequencies, spaced between 2.4-5.8 GHz. TV stations broadcast at much lower frequencies. The lower the frequency the further the wave can travel, the wider the coverage area, the fewer repeaters you need to cover, say, Alaska. (Ted Stevens of Alaska is the Senate sponsor. He is very, very powerful. He almost won The Daily Show Coot-Off!)
Remember too that WiFi standards are backward-compatible. All 802.11 set-ups will be able to use systems like the one Rome, Georgia wants to build. As WiFi becomes a standard part in PCs and other devices, it becomes harder-and-harder not to justify support for it.
So where do we go from here?
WiMax does not specify frequencies. It is an enabling technology. If
you can put WiMax technology on these low frequencies, you can backhaul
wireless cable over long distances, with few repeaters, little loss,
and at low cost.
What the Bells own is the "last mile" or the "first mile" — the link
between the customer and the outer reaches of the wired network. If you
can get WiFi signals to a WiMax or other "wireless cable" trunk, then
use that connection to reach a competitive fiber, the Bells are done.
They know this. They will fight the proposal tooth and nail. It’s up to you to make sure they lose.