West Virginia University announces first university white space broadband trial


West Virginia University is the latest entrant in the rush to deploy TV White Space broadband (TVWS). TV White Space broadband relies on the use of vacant TV channels to transmit data. The university has partnered with AIR.U, the Advanced Internet Regions consortium on the project.

As CivSource has reported, TVWS is growing and has the backing of big players including Google and Microsoft. Trials are underway internationally, and most recently the Gigabit Libraries Network issued a national call to use libraries as hubs for the technology.

The initial phase of the West Virginia network provides free public Wi-Fi access for students and faculty at the Public Rapid Transit platforms, a 73-car tram system that transports more than 15,000 riders daily. This work will be separate from West Virginia’s troubled fiber broadband project which sought to expand access through anchor institutions and remains under scrutiny.

The network deployment is managed by AIR.U co-founder Declaration Networks Group LLC and represents a collaboration between AIR.U and the WVU Board of Governors; the West Virginia Network for Telecomputing, which provides the fiber optic Internet backhaul for the network; and Adaptrum Inc., a California start-up providing white space equipment designed to operate on vacant TV channels.

TVWS enables networks to broadcast Wi-Fi connections over several miles and over hilly and forested terrain. The Federal Communications Commission describes unlicensed access to vacant TV channels as enabling “Super Wi-Fi” services. For example, WVU can add additional Wi-Fi hotspots in other locations around campus where students congregate or lack connectivity today. Future applications include public Wi-Fi access on the PRT cars and machine-to-machine wireless data links supporting control functions of the PRT System. AIR.U intends to facilitate additional college community and rural broadband deployments in the future.

Founding partners of AIR.U include Microsoft, Google, the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and Declaration Networks Group, LLC, a new firm established to plan, deploy and operate Super Wi-Fi networks.