Since rural America has fewer local TV stations, it will have far more of these empty “white spaces” to fill with new wireless signals, points out Alex Besen, who runs an industry consultancy, the Besen Group. In many rural areas, super Wi-Fi will have access to well over 200 megahertz of spectrum, he estimates—more capacity than Verizon and AT&T combined. That huge injection of spectrum could revolutionize the digital infrastructure of rural America, Besen says.
Many urban Americans, by contrast, will have to make do with far less spectrum, as cities’ surviving TV channels limit the number of available white spaces. In addition, capacity in densely populated cities must be divided among more people.
The main point of deploying super Wi-Fi is its increased range—up to 50 miles or perhaps even more. Whatever the ultimate limitations of the “white spaces” prove to be, access to the new airwaves will dramatically improve America’s wireless infrastructure, says Besen. “It’s great spectrum,” he says. “We are very lucky compared to other countries to have this unlicensed spectrum available today.”