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Study Supports UHF for Wi-Fi over Mobile Communications

Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), one of the largest research and education institutions in Europe, studied the benefits of turning some of the TV frequencies that will become available under new band plans into common property for Wi-Fi-type use instead of using the frequencies for mobile communications. The study recommends reserving 90 MHz of the UHF TV spectrum for free use.

Arnd Weber of the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at KIT, said, “Implementation of our approach would have far-reaching consequences. Individuals, institutions, and companies would be far less dependent on expensive mobile communications networks in conducting their digital communication. This would also be of great economic benefit.”

Weber and Jens Elsner, a former member of the staff of the KIT Communications engineering lab, noted that these frequencies are highly suited for penetrating obstacles such as walls. They also suggested allowing more power. The KIT press release states, “Depending on the ambient conditions and by automatically adapting transmission power to prevent interference, such WLAN networks might even reach communication partners at a distance of several kilometers. Even in cities where the transmission capacity will be limited due to the large number of transmission stations, the range of wireless networks could be extended significantly. The networks could, for example, be made available to passersby on neighboring streets for transferring data to and from their smartphones.”

The study contradicts established economic theories that rights of use should be defined and sold on the market to achieve the optimal use of limited resources such as RF spectrum. Elsner and Weber argued that congestion can be prevented technically and that the low-cost approach to electronic communications should be given preference to intensive commercialization. By keeping vacant TV spectrum as common property, they say that apart from mobile communication for everyone, wireless microphones could transmit digitally instead of using niches of the TV spectrum. The spectrum could also be used for disaster relief communications.

Arnd Weber and Jens Elsner propose discussing their approach at the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) next year.

Unfortunately, while Weber and Elsner propose free access to UHF TV spectrum, reading it will cost non-subscribers $35.95 through Elsevier's ScienceDirect.