Only a decade ago, the majority of people had cellphones that just did one thing: made phone calls. Sure, you might be able to play a simple game or send a text message, but for most people, a cellphone was just that: a phone.
With the introduction of the BlackBerry, phones became multifunctional, allowing us to access email, weather, GPS and even go online. The BlackBerry may have gone the way of the rotary phone, but it paved the way for today’s world of mobile devices. Today, many people have some type of mobile device loaded with apps that require access to the Internet.
Most of us prefer to connect via Wi-Fi on our mobile devices to prevent eating up the data on our service plans and paying extra. The problem is, all of these devices are crowding the airways and simply put, we’re in danger of running out of Wi-Fi.
Too Many Devices, Not Enough Bandwidth
You might be thinking “Run out of Wi-Fi? How is that even possible?”
The fact is, Wi-Fi, or the specific frequency on which public Wi-Fi operates, is a finite resource. Every time a new device accesses the frequency, it degrades just a little bit, creating a “traffic jam.” Compounding the problem is the fact that common household items, such as microwaves and children’s toys, also operate on the same frequency as the wireless mobile devices. With so many devices using the same frequency, it’s no wonder that at times Wi-Fi seems to operate at a much slower.
Because the congestion is only expected to worsen as more people adopt wireless technology, the Federal Communications Commission is working with technology firms to identify new bandwidths that will allow for continued, reliable service. Satellite communications provider Globalstar is among those firms, and in November 2013, the FCC made some important rulings that will allow for Globalstar to implement what they believe will be a solution to the problem of dwindling Wi-Fi.
Most people are familiar with Globalstar as the provider of satellite telephone service; they might rent satellite phones from Globalcom, for example, to access the Globalstar network while travelling to remote areas, However, Globalstar offers a number of satellite communication services, including satellite Internet. The company’s solution to the Wi-Fi problem involves terrestrial low-power service, or TLPS. Essentially, TLPS is about 25 MHz of satellite spectrum that can be accessed from the Earth. It’s a dedicated frequency that can be used by carriers and enterprise to offer fast, reliable service without the slowdowns that are so frequent on public Wi-Fi.
In fact, early tests indicated that TLPS as the potential to offer connection speeds as much as five times faster than public Wi-Fi. This is in large part thanks to the expanded capacity of the spectrum, as well as the fact that devices must have the proper firmware installed in order to function on the spectrum. While the existing public Wi-Fi spectrum can be “clogged” by something as simple as microwaving a bag of popcorn, the TLPS system will be off limits to standard household appliances, therefore keeping the bandwidth clean and functional.
TLPS Helps Everyone
In 2013, President Barack Obama announced the ConnectEd initiative, which aims to bring high speed broadband Internet to every classroom and library within five years in an effort to improve access to vital educational resources and academic achievement. Currently, fewer than 20 percent of teachers in the U.S. report that their school’s Internet connection meets their teaching needs; rural and remote schools are the hardest hit, as they often have to rely on DSL or even dial-up connections to get online.
Implementing Globalstar’s TLPS will not only increase capacity by about a third, it will also expand the reach. TLPS has almost four times the reach as the public Wi-Fi bandwidth, meaning that people in those remote areas that have not previously been able to access Wi-Fi will now be able to do so. Not only will such connectivity help schools, it will help individuals and businesses continue to have the fast, reliable Internet that they have come to expect.
TLPS has not yet been fully approved by the FCC. However, the FCC has set the stage for Globalstar to begin offering the service, by proposing change to current rules that will allow the company to offer terrestrial broadband services. After a period of testing and public comment, the FCC will again revisit the TLPS proposal and make a final determination on whether it will become publicly available.
Globalstar is optimistic that TLPS will be approved, and they will soon be able to offer faster Wi-Fi to the millions of customers who rely on it every day. Deployment will take place almost immediately, averting the impending Wi-Fi crisis.