Applications for TV White Space

August 7, 2012, 10:39 am

Restrictions on availability and complexity of equipment will limit the number of use cases for the new TV White Space frequencies.  Currently two very different use cases are emerging to take advantage of restriction-laden frequencies available.

The first, and most often publicized, use case is for rural broadband deployments.  Areas which are currently under-served by cellular and broadband cable providers could utilize TV White Space as a means for long-range Internet services.  As the population density in these areas is low and the number of available frequencies is high, this is a natural use case for TV White Space.   With multiple receivers, it’s possible that Internet speeds of 100Mbps+ could be achieved in rural locations.  How stable the business case is for setting up an infrastructure for offering rural broadband Internet remains to be seen though.

The other use case for TV White Space pertains to a very different standard being developed in the UK to utilize the available frequencies for low-cost, low-power Machine to Machine (M2M) communications.  This standard, which is called Weightless, is designed to use a combination of 1000 and 40 mW transceivers to create a nationwide network specifically designed for M2M applications.  The Weightless standard is not complete, but tests performed on advanced equipment have been very positive.

Further development of Weightless networks, similar to today’s cellular networks but specific to M2M communications, could open up a number of applications and business models which are very attractive.  Markets such as public safety, smart energy, and remote building automation would all benefit from being able to tie into a dedicated network with small, low-power devices and a service plan focused on the low-data rate requirements.  Weightless will still need to overcome the limited availability of TV White Space in urban areas, particularly the lack of a 1 watt transmitter.  It’s possible, though, that this could be overcome through the use of micro-cells or femto-cells which only transmit 40 mW.

Other applications including 802.11af (Super Wi-Fi®) and short-range video broadcast will need to be developed further to understand if the restrictions placed by regulatory bodies will limit the available markets too much.  Certainly the amount of bandwidth being opened up by the switch to digital television is enticing and it’s a given that users will find applications which take advantage of the new frequencies. However, actual uses are likely to be very regionalized in the beginning and the success for TV White Space may only be measured by how it can be deployed in nationwide or worldwide applications

Changes to the existing regulations and the inclusion of an auction system which would allow broadcasters to resell their bandwidth could open up TV White Space for more applications.    In a future blog post, we’ll take a look at what changes could be made to increase the number of use cases for TV White Space.