Dell to offer 'white space' connectivity in laptops

Dell plans to provide an additional broadband option in future laptops by installing white-spaces radios.

Dell will add a new wireless option to future laptops by installing radio chips that provide connectivity over the unused US television spectrum known as white spaces.

On Tuesday, regulators at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to open up white spaces, the unused portion of the spectrum from 512MHz to 698MHz assigned to broadcast TV.

Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Google were among the companies that fought to open up the white spaces, which will provide an additional broadband option for users, especially in rural areas.

Proponents say the TV spectrum can carry broadband signals significantly farther than Wi-Fi, and that opening up the spectrum will help expand the market for new smartphone-like devices.

"We intend to integrate white-space radios into future Dell products," said Neeraj Srivastava, director of technology policy at Dell. The products could include laptops, netbooks, and any other devices that provide wireless network access. He didn't say when the technology would be added.

The radio chips can be small enough to fit in small devices such as smartphones. "From a design perspective, there's no constraint in the size of the radio," Srivastava said.

White spaces continue a "revolution" in unlicensed wireless access that started when the FCC unlicensed the 2.4GHz spectrum in 1995, leading to the development of Wi-Fi networking and wireless devices like cordless phones.

The 2.4GHz spectrum was originally regarded as "junk" for communications purposes because microwave ovens used the same frequency, Srivastava said. It could create interference, and was less effective at penetrating physical objects like walls and furniture.

White spaces could solve a lot of the problems of the 2.4GHz spectrum and allow for higher-bandwidth applications such as streaming audio and video, he said.

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