Feature Article

January 24, 2013

'Super Wi-Fi' Gets a Boost with Base Station, CPE Prototypes for TV White Spaces

Aiming to bring broadband wireless access to underserved and rural areas around the world and open up new use cases for a range of stakeholders, the first base station and consumer premise equipment (CPE) prototypes for making use of unlicensed TV white space spectrum—a.k.a. “super Wi-Fi”—have made an appearance, promising 10 times the coverage of existing commercial Wi-Fi standards.

The National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), Hitachi Kokusai Electric Inc. and ISB Corp. have developed the prototypes based on the IEEE 802.22 standard operating in the 470 MHz to 710 MHz spectrum bands, which were freed up when over-the-air TV in the U.S., U.K. and Japan moved from analog to digital.

The FCC, for its part, has opened up a sizable new block of unlicensed spectrum, between the 50MHz and 700MHz bands, along with the potential for a wealth of new opportunities for consumers, enterprises, service providers and device manufacturers. The white space initiative also goes a long way to meeting the FCC and Obama Administration’s goal of fulfilling the National Broadband Plan, which calls for broadband access to all Americans, particularly in rural and underserved areas. To that end, Chairman Jiulius Genachowski has set thresholds of freeing up an additional 300 megahertz of spectrum by 2015, and 500 MHz by 2020.

"Unleashing white spaces spectrum has the potential to exceed even the many billions of dollars in economic benefit from Wi-Fi, the last significant release of unlicensed spectrum, and drive private investment and job creation," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

And so, white spaces seem a no-brainer, but concerns have swirled around interference. Those bands are often used by music venues, sports arenas, schools and so on for things like short-range microphone communications. The National Association of Broadcasters has also been leery because some TV stations still operate analog feeds alongside their digital OTA, and some consumers still rely on them.

To mitigate the issue, the FCC last year authorize the operation of a database of vacant white space frequencies by companies like Telcordia and Spectrum Bridge, meant to help avoid interference with adjacent broadcasters and wireless microphones.

To help address interference with issues in the technology plane, Hitachi in the new prototype has created point-to-multipoint access with supporting the different QoS levels, and supports cognitive capabilities of interference estimation, geo-location and whitespace database access over the IP.

If the challenges can be solved, the WhiteSpace Alliance said that the benefits and applications are myriad across many stakeholders. Wireless operators, ISP and cable operators could be interested in the offload possibilities that the technology affords, while local broadcasters can deliver a data-based over-the-top (OTT) video services. Municipalities, library or school districts can reach into the community with dedicated channels, and enterprises could use it for campus connectivity that’s more efficient than existing solutions.

“Wi-Fi is a growing part of the solution for meeting the explosive demands for wireless broadband data,” said Jonathan Adelstein, president of PCIA and a former FCC Commissioner. “Delivering that broadband is critical to our nation's economic growth and productivity, the benefits of which extend beyond the wireless world to empower small business growth, and innovation in manufacturing, health care, education and most leading sectors of our economy.”

Adelstein is delivering the keynote for the Super Wi-Fi Summit, coming up in Miami from January 30 to February 1, 2013.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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