Interesting commentary by Kevin Werbach for ZDNet news regarding 802.11 networks and lack of scarcity of the airwaves:
Bandwidth isn't as scarce as you think. The cure for the broadband blues is right in front of our faces, but we don't see it because we've trained ourselves to look elsewhere. The answer is something called open spectrum.
The concept is that wireless frequencies could be shared among many users rather than assigned in exclusive licenses to individual companies. Smart devices subject to rules ensuring that no one player could hog the airwaves would replace networks defined by governments and service providers. Spectrum would be used more efficiently. Bandwidth would be cheaper and more ubiquitous.
It's a deeply subversive idea, just as the Internet was for networking and open source is for software development. But it's an idea whose time has come.
"We could have the greatest wave of innovation since the Internet...if we could unlock the spectrum to explore the new possibilities," said David Reed, formerly chief scientist at Lotus and a researcher involved in the original development of the Internet.
All it would take to open the floodgates for innovation are a few government decisions to make more wireless spectrum available for "unlicensed" services. Unfortunately, the companies that have paid for exclusive spectrum licenses oppose alternatives that would make the airwaves shared and virtually free. They argue that unlicensed services would cause ruinous interference--a "tragedy of the commons." The real tragedy is that today's spectrum owners are preventing a commons that could benefit all.
No government has yet taken the open spectrum idea seriously. There's new hope today, though, thanks to the runaway success of 802.11b (WiFi) technology. It uses a small, congested sliver of spectrum set aside for unlicensed use. WiFi was designed for the mundane purpose of replacing Ethernet cables for connecting office PCs. Despite these limitations, WiFi is taking off as an alternative mechanism for Internet access. There will be 10 million WiFi devices installed by the end of this year, and 4,000 public wireless access points in locations such as airports and cafes.