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Michael Finneran
Michael F. Finneran, is President of dBrn Associates, Inc., a full service advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobility; services...
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Michael Finneran | November 06, 2008 |

 
   

White Space Transmission Gets the Nod from the FCC

White Space Transmission Gets the Nod from the FCC Where White Space gets interesting in its potential to develop into a real competitor to WiMAX and to the cellular carriers. Carriers traditionally pooh-pooh the idea of "real" services operating on unlicensed frequencies, but smart radios that sense and avoid other transmissions add a new element to the equation.

Where White Space gets interesting in its potential to develop into a real competitor to WiMAX and to the cellular carriers. Carriers traditionally pooh-pooh the idea of "real" services operating on unlicensed frequencies, but smart radios that sense and avoid other transmissions add a new element to the equation.

By all reports, relations within the current FCC have degraded to the point where a Super Nanny might be in order. However, at their November 4 meeting they did make some important decisions. The big issue on the table was an overhaul of the Universal Services Fund and the incomprehensible rat's-nest called "inter-carrier compensation," but that docket was pulled prior to the meeting. Hopefully this (or the next) FCC will get to work on that morass quickly, as this cobbled-together regulatory framework is completely out of synch with the advance of IP telephony. On a minor note, they did decide to put their stamp of approval on the Sprint-Clearwire combination as a joint WiMAX carrier and they signed off on Verizon's acquisition of Alltel Wireless.

However, the big news was the approval of the use of the TV White Space spectrum for unlicensed operation.This is the idea of allowing unlicensed devices to operate on TV channels that are not being used in a particular area. The final rules have still not been published, but the devices will likely require a frequency sensing mechanism to avoid interference with over-the-air TV broadcasts and other applications in those bands. Opponents included wireless microphone manufacturers and Broadway theaters whose listening assistance systems operate those channels.

The White Space proponents have had their share of troubles. In the FCC sponsored trials, the prototype devices did not consistently sense or detect TV broadcast signals and were found to cause interference in some cases. Despite the glitches, the FCC apparently has faith that the manufacturers will be able to come up with a design that protects other users and allows this important resource to be opened to new applications.

This is the same spectrum we have referred to as "prime beachfront property." It is in the sub-700 MHz band, the band immediately below the 700 MHz channels the FCC auctioned for close to $20 billion last March. These lower frequency signals lose less power as they travel, hence requiring fewer base stations to cover an area. They also feature far better penetration characteristics, which is key to improving indoor operation.

Where White Space gets interesting in its potential to develop into a real competitor to WiMAX and to the cellular carriers. Carriers traditionally pooh-pooh the idea of "real" services operating on unlicensed frequencies, but smart radios that sense and avoid other transmissions add a new element to the equation. Given the amount of highly-desirable spectrum that is available (even in major markets) and the requirement for frequency selectable/interference avoiding radio devices, this could spring onto the market as quickly as Wi-Fi did a decade ago. What we need is an industry association that moves past the lobbying effort that got us this far, and turns into a market development forum that can develop this into a business.

Now if we could just someone to gag the dim-wits that refer to this (and every other new radio technology) as "Wi-Fi on Steroids," we might get on to the serious task of making a business out of this.Where White Space gets interesting in its potential to develop into a real competitor to WiMAX and to the cellular carriers. Carriers traditionally pooh-pooh the idea of "real" services operating on unlicensed frequencies, but smart radios that sense and avoid other transmissions add a new element to the equation.





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