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May 31, 2011

White Space Efforts Continue to Move Forward

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines

Radio access network gear that can leverage the newly available white space spectrum should be available as early as next year, says Richard Shockey, who runs Shockey Consulting and is chairman of The SIP Forum (News - Alert). Once that happens, he says, it will have a significant impact on networking as we know it.

As discussed in the March issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY, one of the recent moves by the FCC (News - Alert) to advance wireless was its effort to free up unused spectrum in the broadcast TV band. This white space move, as it’s known, represents the largest single expansion of spectrum since the changes to Part 15, which expanded the use of 2.4gHz unlicensed spectrum and led to the popularization of Wi-Fi.

Billions of consumer electronics devices now occupy the 83.5mHz of spectrum in the 2.4gHz space. That’s the entire wireless ecosystem, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and just about anything else you can think of. The white space is even bigger than that, however, as it represents 276mHz of spectrum – almost three times the spectrum available in the 2.4gHz band.

As noted in the March INTERNET TELEPHONY article I authored, as part of the white space effort, the FCC mandated the creation of a database that wireless devices and networks can query to access, and prevent interference with, radios operating at these frequencies. Basically, this database will give interested parties a channel list, and the rights to transmit on available channels.  

The FCC several months ago conditionally approved nine database applicants, as I mentioned in the article. That included Comsearch, Frequency Finder, Google (News - Alert), KB Enterprises and LS Telcom, Key Bridge Global, Neustar, Spectrum Bridge, Telcordia and WSdb. All of the above submitted proposals in response to an FCC order seeking interest around this. Shockey says now a tenth company ­– Microsoft (News - Alert), which recently petitioned to join the crowd – may also be added to that list.

And while all of these companies had many questions earlier this year about how exactly the databases would work, Shockey says there’s now an emerging consensus that the query interface will be HTTP over TLS with XML files back and forth between the various database elements you need to query for. Two key questions that remain to be addressed, however, are how to structure the XML file, and what value-added services database operators can offer to monetize their work on this front, Shockey adds.

Meanwhile, the Internet Engineering Task Force could charter a working group called PAWS (Protocol to Access White Space) as soon as this Thursday, says Shockey. He says the PAWS group would work to internationalize various forms of the white space database, which is garnering interest in such parts of the world as Korea, Scandinavia and the U.K.

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Edited by Jennifer Russell
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