The FCC's decision to authorize Telcordia Technologies to operate a database for TB bands devices (TVBDs) that will operate in white space below 700 MHz may have come just in time as the market is showing every sign of heating up.
The FCC's rules requires all unlicensed TVBDs operating in broadcast TV bands to contact an authorized database system to obtain a list of channels currently available for their operation at their specific location, so they know which frequencies they can use without causing interference. So far, only Telcordia and Spectrum Bridge have received final approval to provide database services, with the latter company gaining the FCC's nod in December 2011.
Telcordia and Spectrum Bridge are part of a group of 10 that the FCC conditionally approved to provide white-space database management services. The group members, which also include Microsoft, might ultimately pursue different device niches and deliver unique value-added offerings, such as database information for international markets.
The FCC is close to launching its unlicensed wireless microphone registration system, a necessity because TVBDs using white space are known to interfere with wireless microphones. Until the system becomes active, the FCC will not provide a general authorization to any TV bands database administrator to serve TVBDs, but each administrator can request permission to provide immediate service from its database system in a limited geographic area.
Interested parties from some 23 or so countries checked out a public trial of Telcordia's database that was mandated by the FCC, said John Malyar, chief architect for interconnection solutions at Telcordia, which is now owned by Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC).
Malyar told FierceBroadbandWireless that many visitors were from the European Union, where the Spectrum Engineering SE43 group within CEPT (the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations) is working on technical and operational conditions for the use of cognitive radio systems in white spaces from 470-790 MHz. European white space slots are 8 MHz wide, while U.S. slots are 6 MHz.
Malyar said that U.S. wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) are jumping into the TV white space business because UHF spectrum can cover large distances, making it suitable for bringing cost-effective broadband service to rural and remote areas. "This is a very early part of the process of what could be a broad set of services being deployed throughout the United States," Malyar said, noting that tens of millions of people are clamoring for broadband and cannot get it.
Jim Carlson, CEO and CTO of California-based Carlson Wireless, agrees that WISPs will be the first to widely exploit white spaces. Carlson Wireless and UK-based Neul this week announced RuralConnect, their radio networking system for WISPs that want to enter the white spaces business. RuralConnect is designed to deliver 16 Mbps of bandwidth for each available vacant TV channel.
Carlson said vertical markets, such as utilities, are also starting to consider white-space possibilities. Public safety is even interested in using white space for ancillary data services while keeping critical communications services on licensed frequencies. Various parties, including regulators, from some 40 countries have contacted Carlson's company for information on white-space products.
According to Carlson, the white-space industry gained considerable momentum with the February passing of the payroll tax extension bill. The new law included numerous provisions related to the wireless industry, including explicit permission for the FCC to create bands of unlicensed white-space spectrum that can be used for wireless broadband applications. The law basically ensures three to five white-space channels in urban areas and many more, perhaps up to 20, in rural and remote areas, he said.
The world's first commercial white-space network was launched during late January in Wilmington, N.C.
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Article updated March 29 to correct information regarding U.S. white-space spectrum, the range of which ends at 698 MHz.