White Spaces Device Could Combine WiMAX and Wi-Fi

The FCC decision on Tuesday that opened up a huge chunk of spectrum for broadband services is a decided victory for its proponents, but there are still many details left to figure out, including what kind of radios will be used to “tune” into the Internet. Today, at an event, Larry Page of Google said any such chips used in these devices should cost less than $5.

One way to do that is to put multiple radios on the chip, tuned to the variety of available spectrum, and let them use the existing WiMAX or Wi-Fi protocols, rather than coming up with something new. Wi-Fi chips are cheap, and WiMAX prices should come down as more networks are deployed. Jeff Thompson, CEO of Towerstream, a provider of wireless broadband to business using WiMAX, says using an existing and open network protocol makes sense.

He doesn’t know exactly what will happen, but Thompson says many players such as Intel and Fujitsu are combining Wi-Fi and WiMAX radios in a single package, and both protocols have something to offer in the white spaces spectrum. Wi-Fi could work for local area networking while WiMAX would allow the signal to travel over a longer range. The end result would be a mobile broadband device that could work as fixed device, as well as on the go. Because the spectrum is unlicensed, a network operator could offer the broadband service at cheaper rates than current data plans from wireless carriers.

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