The FCC today initiated its Notice of Inquiry (NOI) period, requesting comment on dynamic spectrum access technologies and techniques. The Notice of Inquiry period builds on the FCC’s ruling in September (pdf), when the commission unanimously voted to finalize rules enabling the use of TV white spaces for wireless broadband connectivity.
Cisco’s (somewhat self-servingly) projected that broadband demands will grow exponentially. That philosophy is embraced by the FCC, which would like to generate revenue for The Treasury, besides providing needed spectrum.
But selling (our) spectrum to large corporations is not the only option.
Both Microsoft and Google are vocal supporters of the movement to free up white space spectrum. White spaces, unused television frequencies, can be used for both internet access and telephony says Wireless Innovation Alliance supports White Space use with their members having experience in Software Defined Radio (SDR), Cognitive Radio (CR) and Dynamic Spectrum Access (DSA) technologies.
The Wireless Innovation Forum says that TD-LTE may be used in White Spaces, using “dynamic spectrum access”. The TD-LTE in White Space Task Group, chaired by Zhang Xiaojing of Huawei, has formed to develop a report for operators, network infrastructure and mobile service providers, baseband device manufacturers and wireless terminal manufacturers who would like to exploit the TD-LTE system in “white space” spectrum worldwide.
White Spaces utilize 6 MHz-wide channels, while WiFi uses 20 MHz channels. Speed will likely be slower than WiFi, perhaps in the 1 Mbps range, but multiple channels may be ganged together when spectrum is available.
Software Defined Radio and Cognitive Radio are enablers for Dynamic Spectrum Access, says ABI Research. Spectrum Sensing Cognitive Radio has been developed for the TV bands, but it may be broadly useful.
Microsoft submitted comments highlighting reallocation of spectrum for licensed use, but also innovative technologies – such as dynamic spectrum access – that can make higher and better use of limited spectrum.
Microsoft submitted comments and sponsored a white paper (pdf) by Professor Dirk Grunwald of the University of Colorado, Boulder, as a part of their efforts to address the growing challenges of limited spectrum. Microsoft’s ongoing “WhiteFi” trial project on their Redmond, Wash. campus was one of the first white spaces-based networks to use an experimental license from the FCC and covers the nearly 600-acre campus.
The FCC’s National Broadband Plan highlighted the importance of finding more radio spectrum. But it’s not clear how much spectrum will be left after the FCC auctions off 120 Mhz of broadcast television spectrum (the equivalent of 20, 6 MHz television channels). It doesn’t appear to leave much left for unlicensed “white space” use.
Digital television DOES use spectrum more efficiently. Unlike analog broadcasting, digital tv stations can use adjacent channels – packing as many as 10 stations between channel 20-30, for example. That means there’s now a lot of wasted spectrum below 700 MHz – and it propagates well. The Wireless Innovation Forum thinks their Dynamic Spectrum Access approach can work for both internet access and wireless telephony (using TD-LTE).
The FCC conditionally designated nine entities as TV band (“white space”) device database administrators (pdf). These databases tell TV band devices what channels they can transmit on without causing interference to TV broadcast stations, wireless microphones and other authorized broadcast auxiliary services.
White spaces aren’t likely to unset the balance of power anytime soon.
Mobile devices will be limited to 100 mW and fixed transceivers to 1 Watt (4 watts EIRP). Each Base Station is equipped with GPS and its location is sent back to centralized servers.
Frequencies in the 300-500MHz range are likely to penetrate walls and concrete much better than 1900/2100 Mhz cellular or WiFi signals. They may also be used for Smart Meters and in-home communications.
Whether the FCC ruling will launch a new era in broadband remains to be seen.
TV white spaces availability can be found for any location in the US by using the free search tool at Spectrum Bridge’s ShowMyWhiteSpace.com website, or by downloading the company’s free iPhone application.
In white space tests by Spectrum Bridge, Airspan’s WiMax gear was frequency shifted to work in UHF TV channels and controlled by Spectrum Bridge’s database technology (white space primers).
The FCC wants to encourage local TV stations to give up portions of their spectrum licenses and even pay them off with a portion of the auction proceeds, if they merge as a subchannel on a competing station. Broadcast group owners don’t pay a dime for their spectrum. But it’s all not murder shows. Today there are more than forty 24-hour local news channels across the United States.
In January 2007, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., reintroduced the Wireless Innovation Act, which would require the FCC to permit license-free use of the unassigned broadcast spectrum between 54 MHz and 698 MHz.
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