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WVU Site of Nation’s First Campus ‘Super Wi-Fi’ network

This month, West Virginia University became the first university in the United States to use vacant broadcast TV channels to provide the campus and nearby areas with wireless broadband Internet service, known as Super Wi-Fi.

The Super Wi-Fi pilot project was the result of a partnership between WVU and the Advanced Internet Regions (AIR.U) consortium, which consists of the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation, Google, Microsoft, and organizations that represent 500 universities.

Adaptrum, a California startup, is providing white space equipment designed to operate on vacant TV channels, and the fiber-optic backhaul is provided by West Virginia Network for Telecomputing. The network deployment is managed by AIR.U co-founder Declaration Networks Group, which does network engineering design, deployment, operation and support.

“Super Wi-Fi presents a lower-cost, scalable approach to deliver high-capacity wireless networks … and it is a new broadband alternative to provide sustainable models that can be replicated and extended to towns and cities nationwide,” said Bob Nichols, CEO of Declaration Networks Group and AIR.U co-founder.

Adaptrum’s TV band white space device, Model ACRS 1.0, is approved by the FCC and authorized to operate in the entire UHF TV band with an output EIRP close to 36 dBm.

Adaptrum’s ACRS 1.0 TV white space system uses the Telcordia TV white-space database. The operation was approved for the entire UHF TV band (Channel 14 to 51, from 470 MHz to 698 MHz) and authorized for a radiated output power close to 4 watts EIRP (with more than 0.5 watts conducted output power and up to 10 dBi antenna gain.) The ACRS 1.0 system is built upon Adaptrum’s cognitive radio technology with an Adaptive orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) engine. It features an output signal that meets the FCC TV band device emission requirements while maximizing channel spectrum efficiency.

The ACRS 1.0 system provides all the necessary functions to be FCC Part 15 Subpart H rules-compliant, but it uses commercial, off-the-shelf RF and digital components that are not optimized for mass production. The company plans to introduce a second-generation TV white space system, which will be optimized for cost and large-scale production. In the meantime, ACRS 1.0 systems will be produced and offered in limited quantities to interested parties for customer testing and trials.

The initial phase of the WVU deployment 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.

“Not only does the AIR.U deployment improve wireless connectivity for the PRT System, but it also demonstrates the real potential of innovation and new technologies to deliver broadband coverage and capacity to rural areas and small towns,” said WVU Chief Information Officer John Campbell.

The propagation characteristics of TV band spectrum enable networks to broadcast Wi-Fi connections over several miles and over hilly and forested terrain, earning it the moniker “Super Wi-Fi” service.

“The innovative WVU network demonstrates why it is critical that the FCC allows companies and communities to use vacant TV channel spectrum on an unlicensed basis,” said Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at the New America Foundation. “We expect that hundreds of rural and small town colleges and surrounding communities will soon take advantage of this very cost-effective technology to extend fast and affordable broadband connections where they are lacking.”

The consortium of higher education associations, public interest groups and high-tech companies, known as AIR.U, joined together to bring broadband wireless to underserved campuses and their surrounding communities. The idea for AIR.U arose out of discussions among members of the University Community Next Generation Innovation Project, (Gig.U), which is a consortium of research university communities that seeks to accelerate the deployment of next-generation networks and services in the United States.

“We are delighted that AIR.U was born out of the Gig.U effort,” said Blair Levin, executive director of Gig.U and former executive director of the National Broadband Plan. “The communities that are home to our research universities and colleges across the country need next-generation speeds to compete in the global economy, and we firmly believe this effort can be a model for other communities.”