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Microsoft Research's 'WiFi-NC' taps unused TV spectrum for improved wireless connectivity

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Microsoft Research has developed WiFi-NC, a new wireles transmission standard that uses unused portions of the television broadcast spectrum to deliver top speeds even in the face of interference.

Wi-Fi TV
Wi-Fi TV

Researchers at Microsoft have developed a new variant of Wi-Fi that allows wireless transmissions to operate at top speeds even in the face of interference. They're calling it "WiFi-NC" — NC for narrow channel — and it works by taking advantage of unused slivers of the television broadcast spectrum. A collection of smaller transmitters and receivers utilize these sections of spectrum, known as "white spaces," and collectively are able to provide the same bandwidth that a traditional wide-channel Wi-Fi radio offers. Since each of these transmitters can hop between the white spaces discretely, the chance for direct interference is lessened, providing transmissions much closer to theoretical limits than what we see in current equipment.

White spaces were cleared for limited usage by the FCC in 2008, and have been deemed particularly well-suited for wireless networking due to their range and ability to penetrate physical structures. Despite the upside, however, concerns about interference exist, and until Congress gives the go-ahead for broader use of the spectrum, these advantages may stay unrealized. For its part, the Microsoft team hopes their system will force Congress' hand, and that they will eventually be able to turn WiFi-NC into a new wireless standard for the industry.