Some white spaces have already been made available. Recent FCC rules allow wireless carriers to selectively tap it in areas where it is underused—typically outside of major metro areas—but only if it doesn’t interfere with other broadcasts. A Microsoft technology called White Fi has been used to tap into these frequencies. It checks to see if a chosen frequency could cause interference in a particular location, and then automatically hops between different frequencies. The budget deal opening up new spectrum will provide the most benefit in urban areas, where such gaps are hard to find.
Longer term, the move could benefit efforts to develop software-defined radio systems capable of dynamically switching between different frequencies—and different wireless protocols—without dropping the signal to perform a wide variety of tasks, including bridging the gap between in-home or in-office wireless networks and mobile cellular ones.
Another beneficiary could be mesh networks. In such networks, data doesn’t follow a hub-and-spoke broadcasting model (like that of a TV station or your home modem) but instead hops from device to device, forming the so-called mesh (or ad hoc) network. This type of network is inexpensive, robust, and able to expand automatically and efficiently as the number of devices on the network increases.
While such networks are already used for several applications, including environmental or industrial sensing, the combination of more spectrum—used more intelligently—increases the options for building such networks.