Hospital looking at 'TV white spaces' to go wireless

If a low-density community isn't already blanketed with fiber optics for high-speed Internet and other advanced telecommunications services, it might make sense to do what so many developing countries have done with their telephone infrastructure: skip the expensive cabling and go wireless.

That is the plan at Hocking Valley Community Hospital in Logan, Ohio, which is deploying an experimental, communitywide wireless network for affiliated physicians and other healthcare providers in the area over "TV white spaces"--the radio spectrum vacated when analog television broadcasting ceased last year. The technology, supplied by Lake Mary, Fla.-based Spectrum Bridge, operates at lower frequencies and higher power than Wi-Fi, so the signals reach much wider areas than a typical wireless Internet router, ZDNet Healthcare reports.

The network, which includes some Wi-Max technology to provide wireless access on and near the hospital campus, facilitates wireless data transfer from ambulances and other first responders' vehicles, according to Spectrum Bridge.

"This is an exciting new deployment that demonstrates the potential of the TV white spaces to improve broadband and spark new applications in healthcare," Larry Alder, business operations project manager at Google, which is assisting Hocking Valley and Spectrum Bridge in the effort, says in a press release.

The FCC has granted just a one-year license for the network to broadcast on the TV white spaces, but the agency is holding a hearing next week on similar experimental networks that have been underway since November 2008. ZDNet says the FCC soon will issue rules on white spaces that will be subject to a public comment period before being finalized. "Once that happens, equipment makers will be free to make gear that meets the FCC's specifications, standards bodies like the IEEE will be able to work on improved encoding schemes called 802.11AF, and the market for long distance Wi-Fi signals will blossom," ZDNet reports.

To learn more:
- see this ZDNet Healthcare blog post
- here's a press release from Spectrum Bridge