On Feb 17, 2009, television signals will no longer be broadcast through the airwaves. A rabbit-ear antenna will not bring television to a set, and to say 'on the air' will be obsolete.
So why do we care about this?
While this will not affect the majority of households that are already subscribing to cable television, this will usher in a substantial wave of technological innovation. The freed up band of the electromagnetic spectrum has certain scientific properties that can be exploited to transmit new generations of wireless broadband.
Imagine getting a 100 Mbps signal on your cell phone, fast enough to download streaming high-definition video. Your cellphone service would include this broadband, and you could even link the phone as an adapter to your home network, and receive this broadband into your network. This would allow you to consolidate your broadband and cellphone service into one subscription, saving money.
More importantly, the innovations that arise through this will induce leapfrogging to broadband in the developing world.
The scalability of wireless broadband will result in Internet access spreading to previously disenfranchised markets. In India, the wired infrastructure is so poor that 99.9% of the population does not have broadband Internet access today, and 90% of households do not have landline telephones. But cellphone penetration has already overtaken landlines, at 80 million subscribers and growing rapidly.
Cellphones become the natural vehicle of leapfrogging to broadband deliverence to areas where landline telephones and wired broadband have no chance of reaching in the near future. This diffusion will be shockingly rapid.
Prediction : By 2013, Asia and Latin America will jointly have 900 million people exclusively subscribing to wireless broadband services through cellphone-like devices, enjoying speeds of 5 Mbps or more. 80% of these people have no Internet access, not even dial-up, today.