The FCC spectrum auction recently took place this year. The big boys (AT & T and Verizon ) were competing with the new boys in town (Google). There is a great article at ZDnet throwing light on the inefficient manner in which spectrum has come to be treated.
The bottom line is that thanks to one clever grad student, and one small charity, Houston’s poorest will soon have better broadband than you and I, free. This is due to the magic of WiFi, of unlicensed wireless broadband.
Yet instead of expanding that miracle we have chosen to treat spectrum as property, first as government property and then as the private property of the Telecom Trust.
The research by the Rice university student is indeed worth pondering upon. The internet is no more a luxury but the superhighway to information. There is much that the internet can do that books and libraries may not have accomplished in all ages.
From this perspective the developments at a firm – Meraki Networks are worth noting. An offshoot of the MIT Rooftnet project, the company that empowers users to collectively host wireless networks.
Mesh networks work on a peer-to-peer model with the data hopping from one node to another till it reaches its destination. It is this model to internet connectivity that Meraki Network seeks to create. The project has immense potential with even city-wide span being planned.
In a nutshell, MIT’s Roofnet allows people in and around Central Square in Cambridge to gang together their wireless access points into a kind of wireless cloud that anyone with a WiFi device can access if they’re in range. There are some specifics I’m leaving out—you have to use a particular model of router, and you have to sign up for the program—but you get the general idea.
The project allows for a simple plug and play solution to enable sharing of bandwidth over Wi-Fi. There are several technical and legal challenges in the adoption of such a model on a wide scale. Nevertheless it presents one great avenue for the network to indeed become ubiquitous.
A switch-over between technologies could perhaps be the future direction of such networks. Based on the strength of available network options in the vicinity, the device could automatically configure access to internet ( such as switch from WiFi to UWB or WiMAX).
And yes, the firm has received backing from Google and several investors including Sequoia Capital, DAG Ventures and Northgate Capital. Its a great way to spread broadband access among the masses.