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Surprising Science

WiFi Signals Could Cover One Square Mile

Rice University grad student Ryan Guerra is on a mission to extend the range of WiFi signals from a few hundred feet to a mile thanks to some nifty engineering and a few empty TV channels.

What’s the Latest Development?

Rice University grad student Ryan Guerra is testing “Super WiFi” at homes on the edge of public Internet networks. He is part of a team that received National Science Foundation grant money to explore new Internet possibilities. “The team’s goal is basic research on providing broadband in the TV ‘white spaces’—empty channels that the government recently cleared for use by unlicensed Internet providers.” By making WiFi bandwith compatible with these empty channels, the team has had success in extending the reach of uninterrupted WiFi signals to one mile.  

What’s the Big Idea?

Developing a wide and reliable wireless Internet network will one day increase the ease with which we access information and communicate with work and friends. Making sure everyone has equal access to the Internet is something Secretary of State Clinton has called a new human right—the Right to Information. Currently, economic and technological barriers exist to realizing this new right, but a broad wireless network, which could extend one mile in urban areas and even further in rural ones, would represent an important step closer toward that goal. 


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