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Summary:

The Wi-Fi Alliance, the keepers of the Wi-Fi brand, have come out swinging against the characterization of white spaces broadband as Super Wi-Fi. The Alliance issued a press release Friday saying it likes the tech, but the name will lead to “substantial user confusion.”

wireless-antenna

The Wi-Fi Alliance, the keepers of the Wi-Fi brand, have come out swinging against the characterization of white spaces broadband as Super Wi-Fi. The Alliance issued a press release Friday saying it likes the tech, but the name will lead to “substantial user confusion.” While it fell short of filing a lawsuit over trademark infringement, the threat is there.

But who could the Wi-Fi Alliance sue? The term first appeared in press released issued by the FCC in 2010 to describe white spaces broadband. Most vendors in the space call it white spaces, and although the folks hosting the Super Wi-Fi Summit might have a problem. I can see how the phrase white spaces broadband — which describes using the airwaves between the digital TV channels for sending packets — doesn’t really have the same consumer zing as Super Wi-Fi, but the tech has more problems than a blah or infringing name.

Despite yesterday’s news of the nation’s first Super Wi-Fi white spaces broadband network launching in North Carolina, its ability to become a widespread source of broadband access is under threat. There are bills in Congress that look to make it hard for companies to use the white spaces spectrum for broadband and without a wide-scale adoption the cost of equipment to provide and access such networks would be fairly high. Even though white spaces networks need scale in order to drive down costs, the technology has moved from being marketed as an “anyplace” wireless broadband extender to a rural wireless broadband product.

So maybe the Wi-Fi Alliance shouldn’t get too upset over this just yet. It’s possible most people aren’t going to be calling white spaces broadband anything at all. And that’s a far bigger problem.

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  1. Richard Bennett Friday, January 27, 2012

    It’s good to see the Wi-Fi Alliance making this statement. Supporters of white spaces have deliberately tried to cash in on Wi-Fi’s success by labeling their system with a misleading name.

    The technical issue it that Wi-Fi access control protocol only works over short distances, considerably less than a mile, while White Spaces advocates tout their system as covering several miles. It’s certainly possible to build wireless networks to cover such large areas, but they won’t be anything at all like Wi-Fi; they’re going to be much more like Wi-Max.

    Why don’t the White Spaces people call their system “Super Wi-Max?” Probably for the same reason they don’t call it
    “Super Dial-up.”

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