I just bought an over-the-air antenna for my TV, and I am getting very clear and high quality video for at least 20 channels. It occurred me that if the over-the-air communication mechanism is capable of delivering that much data (enough needed for streaming high quality video) - why can't we also get broadband internet connections that are broadcast via the same mechanism (over-the-air)?

I would think this could be an alternative to satellite internet in rural areas, and could remove the need for brand new infrastructure in many places around the world that don't have broadband internet.

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    \$\begingroup\$ en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_Internet_service_provider \$\endgroup\$
    – Passerby
    Mar 3 '16 at 3:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Because the Internet is bidirectional: data would have to flow both ways, requiring a strong transmitter. Not only that, but every internet user is served different data, unlike what happens in the examples you posted. Sparse, high power Internet broadcasting towers are thus not possible. Instead we have dense cellular networks for mobile Internet and calls, among other high bandwidth bidirectional communications. \$\endgroup\$
    – jms
    Mar 3 '16 at 3:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ This sort of thing has already sort-of been done where an existing low-speed internet connection (DSL, phone-line, whatever) is 'supplemented' by adding a high-speed satellite down-link. Your requests for content go out on the low-speed link and the actual content comes back over the satellite link. Latency is a bit high though so its not much good for gaming... \$\endgroup\$
    – brhans
    Mar 3 '16 at 13:33

Actually, there have been several efforts in industry and government to work towards systems like this. However, there have not been any mass deployments to date. The IEEE standards include 802.11af and 802.22. The process for making unlicensed spectrum available is under study by the FCC in the United States. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Wi-Fi.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Making spectrum available would still not permit a large number of users requiring unique data to each enjoy anything near the bandwidth possible when the same limited number of channels is broadcast to all users. For unique data, you need to "rent" a unique frequency/time/code slice of a license, and most readily purchasable plans for doing so provide limited bandwidth to each user. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 '16 at 5:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. Most proposals for internet access using this spectrum have been for rural areas where population density is low. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 '16 at 5:34

Long time ago, I worked at a company which developed silicon for receivers of internet transmitted from TV stations. One day after explaining the idea to a friend, I've got the following response: "So, is the ISP going to broadcast eBay?"

A TV station can broadcast 20 high quality signals, they reach tens of thousands (rural) subscribers, each subscriber receives the same thing. With internet, each of the subscribers will want different content. In addition, there still needs to be some kind of back-channel to send requests.


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