Spectrum Bridge launches second white-space network

As the white-space industry waits for the FCC to establish rules around devices and determines what companies will be allowed to operate spectrum databases, Spectrum Bridge, together with partner TV Band Service, announced a second experimental network in the U.S.

This time Spectrum Bridge will set out to prove that white-space technology works in larger urban environments, where interference is plentiful, and is useful for a variety of applications--not just broadband connectivity.

The city of Wilmington and the county of New Hanover in North Carolina have launched a white-space network using an experimental license to create what Spectrum Bridge calls the nation's first smart city network powered by Spectrum Bridge's white-space database that dynamically assigns non-interfering frequencies to white-space devices to avoid signals from TV broadcasts. White-space spectrum lies in those unused pieces of TV spectrum where interference with surrounding signals such as TV broadcasts is certain unless the devices can operate to prevent interference.

Last October, Spectrum Bridge launched a white space network in Claudville, Va., a city of 680 people, to provide Internet access. The white-space network there is serving as a middle-mile link between the wired backhaul and WiFi hotspot networks deployed in Claudville's business area and the school. The same network is also providing last-mile broadband connectivity to end users.

This latest deployment involves a city of 200,000 people. It has been thought that white-space networks may only be suited for rural markets given the fact white-space spectrum hits more potential interference in bigger markets. Spectrum Bridge is working to prove that the technology works in bigger markets too.

Rick Rotondo, vice president of marketing with Spectrum Bridge said Wilmington is focusing on using white space to connect city functions that are too remote, costly or environmentally disruptive to be done with fiber or WiFi. 

The city is deploying applications that provide real-time traffic monitoring for the department of transportation. For instance, one of Wilimington's main thoroughfares, Martin Luther King Blvd., includes a drawbridge that the city wanted to monitor with video cameras. The remote location meant fiber or WiFi could not be used to provide the connectivity. Video cameras will also be installed via white-space spectrum at community parks and citizens and employees will also be able to use the system to connect via WiFi.

Another area the network will assist with is monitoring the water bodies and wetlands, which is required by the Environmental Protection Agency. Typically, a city worker is required one a month to physically download information from sensors across the county, oftentimes by boat. And the information is not often current.

Rotondo said the city expects to realize savings of $100,000 a year in water monitoring costs alone, and additional applications are planned, including water pump station monitoring and control, medical telemetry and expanded broadband access for schools.

"This really will be a good case study of how much money the network can save," Rotondo.

Spectrum Bridge and other white-space advocates such as Google, Microsoft and Motorola are waiting for the FCC to hammer out the final rules for white-space use. The agency is likely to begin type acceptance of white-space equipment by the end of the year, and those players that applied to become white-space coordinators are hoping to get acceptance this quarter. Nine entities, including Spectrum Bridge, Google and Telcordia, have applied to be white-space coordinators.

Until then, Spectrum Bridge will likely continue to obtain experimental licenses or partner with other folks who get experimental licenses (in this instance, TV Band Service owns the license) to prove out various business models involving white-space spectrum. I wouldn't be surprised to see Spectrum Bridge as a takeover target by this time next year as the white-space market heats up.--Lynnette