White Space and Agile Bandwidth Usage

Carl Weinschenk

White space technology holds great promise for wireless. The nickname-Super Wi-Fi-aptly encapsulates the hopes that various parties hold for the new approach.

Forbes writer Elizabeth Woyke points out that Google, Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft, Philips and Samsung are among those in a white space consortium. Though many companies join groups and consortiums just to cover their bets, this roster suggests that there is a high level of interest in white space. She sums up the promise nicely:

Deployment should be welcome news for tech manufacturers and consumers. Gadget makers see white spaces as a form of connectivity that is unlicensed and ubiquitous like Wi-Fi but higher quality-akin, in some ways, to a cellular link. For consumers, white space spectrum offers the promise of a free or very low cost way to get online.

It isn't easy, however, and there are skeptics. White space is comprised of spectrum that was reclaimed from broadcasters' transition from analog to digital transmission. One characteristic of this world is that the amount and location of this spectrum varies in different locales. If it is used incorrectly, interference with broadcasters or others rightfully occupying the spectrum could occur.

InformationWeek is one of many sites reporting that the FCC has "conditionally" approved nine entities to manage the databases that will track what spectrum is being used and where. The nine, according to the story, are Google, Comsearch, Frequency Finder, Key Bridge Global, Neustar, Spectrum Bridge, Telcordia Technologies and WSdb. The story adds that KB Enterprises and LS Telcom have been okayed as a joint entry.

There may be a bigger story in white space. I posted a feature a few weeks ago about the challenges faced by LTE Advanced and WiMax 2, the next generation of 4G (or, the first, depending on your perspective). One source for the story-Dan Hays, a partner at PRTM, a global management firm-suggested that one of the steepest is that these approaches require a tremendous amount of contiguous spectrum to reach their full potential.

A few weeks earlier, I posted on a nascent effort by the FCC to explore creative spectrum techniques. This is separate from its actions on white space specifically. One idea in the Notice of Inquiry is developing technology that can grab spectrum from disparate locales and enable networking equipment to treat it as a single block.

The companies chosen as provisional database administrators should be considered to have interest in this bigger effort to more efficiently use spectrum. If the explosion of wireless continues at anything near the current pace-and there is no reason to think that it won't-companies that own intellectual property enabling the spectrum soup to be stretched a bit farther will be in very good position.

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