It was in 2007 that we first wrote about white spaces. Ten years later, the talk continues. The technology is sometimes known as “super Wi-Fi” because it behaves like regular Wi-Fi but uses low-powered television channels to cover far greater distances than wireless hot spots. It is also more powerful than cellular service because the frequencies can penetrate concrete walls and other obstacles. Promoting the white-spaces technology could reap rewards for tech companies: The remaining 24.
Bob Pepper of Cisco is speaking on LTE, with specific reference to the 700 MHz Band. If the FCC had the knowledge it now has about how to make the digital transition work, they would have taken back 160 MHz, not 108 MHz. Auction for the digital dividend spectrum in US was in 2007, but actual switch-over was in 2009. It was important to create the stakeholders to ensure pressure was maintained on the regulator to keep to the schedule and not backtrack. Pepper is talking about White Space.
The pilot project being implemented by the UK regulator should yield useful learnings for all who want to make better use of spectrum. Ofcom is inviting the industry to take part in the pilot, which is scheduled for the third quarter of 2013. Locations will be chosen once the trial participants are on-board. It also noted that following a successful completion of the programme, “Ofcom anticipates that the technology could be fully rolled out during 2014, enabling the use of white space devices across the country”. Issues to be explored include the interoperation of white space devices, white space databases, and the processes to mitigate against interference to current spectrum users.
We’ve been talking about the qualitative increase in data volumes that will result from the conversion of mobile networks into carriers of data since 2010. Is it a flood, a tsunami or an avalanche? The name does not seem to matter (though tsunami is the term that seems to be catching). Unless the problem is understood (operators do; some regulators and policy makers do, as evidenced below); and addressed (both in terms of access networks, as below, and in terms of backhaul, as we have been advocating), the quality of broadband experience will degrade radically. The announcement comes as wireless companies are facing a spectrum crunch crisis that has already begun to reshape the industry.
The US has done it. When will Asian spectrum managers start? First step is to move TV to digital. Where are the road maps? The Federal Communications Commission approved a proposal on Thursday that would open vast amounts of unused broadcast television airwaves for high-speed wireless broadband networks and other unlicensed applications.
Chanuka posted the story before the Economist, but it may still be worthwhile reading what the take is from the headquarters of free market thinking: White space could be even bigger. The frequencies involved were chosen for television back in the 1950s for good reason: they travel long distances, are hardly affected by the weather, carry lots of data, and penetrate deep into the nooks and crannies of buildings. No surprise proponents have dubbed them “WiFi on steroids”. Once the changeover from analog to digital broadcasting is complete, the television networks will no longer need the white spaces between analog channels to prevent interference from noise and other transmissions. Apart from digital broadcasts being far less vulnerable to interference, there’s now plenty of frequency-hopping technology around for detecting digital broadcasts and avoiding them.
The Federal Communications Commission, as expected, approved a measure that would make “white space” spectrum available for wireless broadband. White space is industry lingo for the unused airwaves that abut broadcast TV spectrum, providing a buffer zone from stray signals and other inferference. The buffer zone was set up more than 50 years ago when TV was first invented. The FCC’s white-space plan was initially proposed four years ago. More than 25,000 comments — from supporters as well as critics — were submitted.