A consortium of higher education associations, public interest groups and high-tech companies today announced a partnership named AIR.U (Advanced Internet Regions) to deploy Super Wi-Fi networks to upgrade the broadband available to underserved campuses and their surrounding communities.
By using unlicensed access to unused television channels (TV band "White Spaces"), universities and neighboring communities will be able to significantly expand the coverage and capacity of high-speed wireless connectivity both on and off campus.
The founding Higher Ed organizations collectively represent over 500 colleges and universities nationwide, and include the United Negro College Fund, the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC), the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education, and Gig.U, a consortium of 37 major universities committed to accelerating world-leading broadband connectivity and services.
Founding partners also include Microsoft, Google, the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation, a think tank based in Washington D.C., the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and Declaration Networks Group, LLC, a newly created organization established to plan, deploy and operate Super Wi-Fi technologies.
AIR.U will focus on upgrading broadband offerings in those communities that, because of their educational mission, have greater than average demand but often, because of their rural or small town location, have below average broadband. The consortium?s initial goal is to plan and deploy several pilot networks in diverse university communities and create a roadmap for the deployment of next generation wireless networks as White Space equipment becomes widely available in 2013.
Super Wi-Fi networks will transmit on much lower frequencies than today?s Wi-Fi, allowing the broadband signals to penetrate further into buildings and cover much larger areas.
Last December the FCC certified the first commercial devices and geolocation database that will be needed to ensure that White Space devices operate only on vacant TV channels and do not interfere with television reception. Certifications of a variety of equipment makers and database operators are expected in the coming months.
The AIR.U consortium expects one or more pilot networks will be operational by the first quarter of 2013.