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January 30, 2013

Super Wi-Fi Summit: The Future is Now, and the White Space Industry is Delivering

The FCC paved the way for White Spaces starting in 2004 followed by major orders in 2008 and 2010.  The FCC established a ground-breaking spectrum structure using UHF TV spectrum recently vacated by TV stations for broadband wireless use.     

In 2010, the FCC gave the “go” flag and the startups and giants like Google and Microsoft were off to the races.  

The three-day Super Wi-Fi Summit will be held in Miami at ITEXPO, where all the White Space participants and industry leaders will be gathered. Former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, now PCIA President, will be kicking off the Summit. 

Commissioner Adelstein was a strong supporter of White Spaces and rural broadband, and will explain how White Spaces will help the mobile industry in a similar way that Wi-Fi has been the savior for mobile data demand.

White Spaces regulation was the result of advances in technology. Using the Internet, the “cloud, and new chip-set breakthroughs, the FCC was able to create a new ecosystem where wireless providers could use and share powerful, unlicensed beach-front spectrum.  The FCC created the concept of broadband radios talking to a database as a method to determine if a TV channel was free for unlicensed use. 

The vacated TV channels were widely available in rural areas where broadband was needed the most.  

The FCC orders also required that the new White Spaces radios use filters in order to ensure that the White Spaces radio waves not go outside the 6MHz TV channel assigned by the database in order to prevent the new radios from interfering with TV stations in adjacent channels.  

In the past, the FCC did not focus on the interference standards for “receivers.”  Even the general public learned in the FCC’s Lightsquared docket that the GPS receivers were using spectrum that was not assigned to GPS resulting in the FCC’s shuttering the use the Lightsquared’s assigned spectrum, and then, in Lightsquared’s bankruptcy.   

Engineering and building radios to the FCC’s strict White Space’s standards is difficult. Building databases that interface with these radios and provide open channels had never been accomplished.

Now, two years after the FCC order, there are two operating and approved database providers, Telcordia, an Ericsson subsidiary, and Spectrum Bridge, a VC funded startup.  Both database providers are establishing relationships with White Spaces radio equipment vendors. Telcordia’s John Malyar and Spectrum Bridge’s Peter Stanforth will be speaking at the Super Wi-Fi Summit and will be showing the advances in the databases. The databases will be capable of helping radios share the same spectrum effectively and efficiently. Databases can prioritize use for one service provider or another.  It is predicted that there will be no radios in five years that will not interface with a database.

Until today, White Spaces radio equipment startups have been trialing prototype radios. Now, in 2013, White Spaces commercial radios are starting to roll off the production line.  Carlson Wireless’ Jim Carlson, Adaptrum’s Darrin Mylet, Neul’s Luke D’Arcy, and KTS’s Andy Mancone will be showing their radios and talking about the specifications. Rural Wireless ISP (WISPS) are standing in line waiting for the White Spaces radios.   

The WISPs have customers who cannot be served with 900MHz radios because the radios cannot penetrate through trees, terrain, and structures.  White Spaces give the WISPs and the rural public the opportunity to use broadband where it has never been used.  

And with the coming rollout of Small Cells by mobile carriers, serving high-use areas will require “backhaul” Internet to connect to the Small Cells.  White Spaces radios can be used in both rural and urban areas to deliver broadband to these Small Cells. The Super WI-FI Summit will address the Small Cell opportunity with speakers from Peter Flynn, Product & Program Manager, Texas Instruments, Dr. Mohammad Shakouri, Chairman Wimax Forum, Raj Singh GM, Wireless Broadband Group Cavium, and Jeff Thompson President Towerstream.

The Spectrum Act of 2012 complicated the FCC’s White Spaces orders.  The FCC’s TV Incentive Auction, implementing the Spectrum Act, will be selling some of the TV spectrum freed up for White Spaces to mobile providers. However, the FCC has made it clear that some of the spectrum will be reserved for unlicensed White Spaces.  Comments were recently filed with FCC by Wi-Fi Alliance, White Spaces Alliance, Spectrum Bridge, AT&T, T-Mobile, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Verizon Wireless, and Intel among many others.  

Attorneys, economists and White Spaces startups are focused on understanding the FCC order and are providing advice through the public Comments to steer the FCC in the “right” direction.  At the Super Wi-Fi Summit, a panel will examine the TV Incentive Auction. These attorneys and experts include Barlow Keener, Principal, Keener Law Group; Michael Calabrese, Director, Wireless Future Program, Sr Research Fellow, New America Foundation; Steve Coran, Of Counsel, Lerman Senter; Peter Flynn, Product & Program Manager, Texas Instruments, Trey Hanbury, Partner, Hogan Lovells, Marty Stern, Partner, K&L Gates LLP, and Matt Wood, Policy Director, Free Press.

White Spaces is anything but simple.  The TV Incentive Auction throws a new twist into the process. But the global growth of White Spaces is accelerating.  Started in the U.S. by the FCC, the White Spaces unlicensed spectrum sharing method has caught on worldwide thanks to the commitment and work of the White Spaces vendors. Ofcom in the U.K., Canada’s Industry Canada, the European Commission, China, South Africa, and other countries throughout Asia and Africa have taken the hint and are off to the White Spaces race.  Some are outpacing the FCC.  

White Spaces equipment vendors and database providers are actively conducting trials in these countries. The Super Wi-Fi Summit has group of speakers discussing the global growth.

More on this topic and a discussion on the impact and potential future of White Spaces will be discussed during this week’s Super Wi-Fi Summit happening in Miami, Fla.

Edited by Braden Becker

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