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January 09, 2010


Peter Stanforth

The final rules for use of TV White Spaces are being debated, so anything at this stage is somewhat speculative. However I would suggest that the real breakthrough here is not the amount of TV White Space that is available on day one but how easy it will be to add to it in the future. Once a class of frequency agile radios exist that use a database to find out where they can operate it is relatively easy to add to the spectrum pool. The FCC no longer has to find nationwide chunks of spectrum to create new unlicensed bands. Think of a scenario where there is "white Spaces" congestion in a major urban area. The FCC could identify some additional spectrum locally, maybe a single TV channel in that urban area, and add it to the pool. The effect on the community would be reduced congestion but with no change to any of the network infrastructure or operation.

Your analysis of the characteristics and assumption that using this spectrum as additional WiFi bandwidth (with increased propagation) is reasonable but I would not discount other new applications. The FCC is not defining the technology or the service so it is possible that, like the ISM bands, different types of service (like bluetooth, cordless phones and WiFi) will co-exist. Several areas of interest, beyond WiFi, include smart grid and smart city applications as well as tele-medicine.


Thanks Peter. I agree the long term breakthough will be access to the white space that is spread throughout the spectrum. As I've pointed out on several occasions (http://su.pr/5wYiJv, http://su.pr/1kSY2q), while virtually all spectrum is licensed to somebody, most wireless spectrum is unused at most locations most of the time. The first step for shared access on a white space like basis was the FCC's action on the 3650-3700 MHz band and then the 802.11y protocols for using that spectrum. Out biggest efforts going forward should be to obtain secondary use of additional spectrum on a similar basis.

I agree that other users like Bluetooth or cordless phones or some other as yet unknown service could also benefit from TV white spaces, but I'll bet the first uses are Wi-Fi and WiMAX as rural broadband is a clear market and at least the Wi-Fi community already has most of the protocol work done (via DSE in 802.11y).

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