White Space Projects Tackle Growing Wireless Demand

Carl Weinschenk

White space, the use of spectrum formerly occupied by broadcast channels and the guard band between existing channels, is potentially a significant tool for providers seeking to deal with the explosion of wireless demand.

It generally is high-quality spectrum and a good alternative, but not an easy one to harness. The big catch is that different amounts of white space capacity are located at various points in the overall spectrum. Amounts are available depending on the location of the user. Indeed, availability fluidly changes in a given locale because some broadcast channels are not 24-hour affairs. What is available in the evening may not be in the morning.

Great potential plus great challenge has led to intensive multiyear worldwide development efforts. The linchpin drive has been to create database administration systems that can check in real time if a frequency in a particular area is available. Last week, CivSource reported that on June 18, the Federal Communications Commission granted LS telecom AG, a German company, a 45-day trial period to act as a database administrator in the U.S.:

This trial period will also serve as a public comment period, and time for users to test out the service. Over the 45 days, regulators, technologists and users will vet the company and offer time for the public to be heard. So far, only two other companies are database administrators for white space broadband – Spectrum Bridge and Telcordia. Google also applied to be a database administrator, as it serves this function in the Cape Town trial. That application is awaiting approval, although Telcordia already relies on Google Maps technology for its service.

The FCC announcement was not the only white space news last week. Twenty-three companies, including Microsoft, BSkyB and Ruckus Wireless, announced the formation of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance.  The goal of the alliance, according to the launch press release, is to “promote regulatory policies that will pave the way for innovative new wireless technologies that address growing wireless data and digital divide challenges.”

The sense is that the group will focus on white space but also work on other uses of the real-time database capabilities. In other words, white space catalyzed development of techniques that enable the assignment of spectrum on a fluid basis.

June was a pretty active month for white space news. FierceBroadbandWireless reported that the FCC would accept input into the performance of database systems from Google and Key Bridge until June 13 and reply comments until last Thursday.

The two firms concluded their trials on April 17 and April 24, respectively. Google said its trial site attracted 16,000 unique users and 36,000 page views. Key Bridge’s portal was visited 1,185 times by 604 unique users. Fifty-eight visitors set up accounts and used the system extensively, according to the story.

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