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—and beyond.
This month, he succeeded, thanks to some nifty engineering and a few empty TV channels.
The first beneficiary of his work is Houston resident Leticia Aguirre, 48, who lives at the very edge of a local free WiFi network run by Technology for All. The high frequencies (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) used by WiFi mean that signals don't easily penetrate the tree branches and leaves which surrounded Aguirre's home.
On the "deadest, stillest day of winter" the signal might be reliable, Guerra told me, but most of the year, it has been frustratingly intermittent. Even though the WiFi connection was free and Aguirre can't afford DSL or cable, her experience was so poor she considered canceling the service.
Guerra decided to use Aguirre's home as the first location for new "Super WiFi" test gear being developed and tested at Rice. Instead of relying on traditional WiFi frequencies, the Super WiFi project downshifts the signal into an empty TV channel—in this case, channel 29, which has the additional virtue of having empty adjacent channels, as well.