January 20, 2022

Broadband: Nations First College Campus “Super Wi-Fi” Network Launches at West Virginia University


The initial phase of the 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.

“Not only does the AIR.U deployment improve wireless connectivity for thePRT System, but also demonstrates the real potential of innovation and new technologies to deliver broadband coverage and capacity to rural areas and small towns to drive economic development and quality of life, and to compete with the rest of the world in the knowledge economy,” said WVU Chief Information Officer John Campbell.

Because the unique propagation characteristics of TV band spectrum 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 thePRT System.

West Virginia University is the first school in the country to launch a “Super Wi-Fi” network.

WVU has launched a new wi-fi system that uses vacant broadcast television frequencies to expand its broadband signal.

West Virginia University became the first college in the U.S. to use empty TV broadcast channels for something better than ye olde boob tube: Internet.

WVU partnered with AIR.U, which includes Microsoft and Google, to provide free Wi-Fi access for students and faculty that extends far beyond the typical hundred feet of so of “real” Wi-Fi. “Super Wi-Fi,” which isn’t really Wi-Fi at all, received approval from the Federal Communications Commission in 2010.

While standard Wi-Fi uses the 2.4 GHz radio frequency, Super Wi-Fi uses lower frequency TV radio signals — 54MHz to 698 MHz –  which travel farther and propagate more effectively over hills and around obstacles such as trees. Maximum range for the signals appears to be about six miles, with a maximum speed around 10Mbps.

The founding Higher Ed organizations collectively represent over 500 colleges and universities nationwide, and include the United Negro College Fund, the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC), theNational Institute for Technology in Liberal Education, and Gig.U, a consortium of 37 major universities committed to accelerating world-leading broadband connectivity and services.
Founding partners also include Microsoft, Google, the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation, a think tank based in Washington D.C., the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and Declaration Networks Group, LLC, a newly created organization established to plan, deploy and operate Super Wi-Fi technologies.
About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.