The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given approval for the first “Super Wi-Fi” database test for sharing the use of white-spaces spectrum. The database will help ensure that new users of the spectrum do not impact existing TV channels or users of wireless microphones currently licensed in the same geographic area. (For the original announcement, see FCC Tests White Spaces Database).

A number of trials of the RF technology have been conducted in the past using fixed spectrum, but this will be the first time equipment makers will be able to see how well the database and cognitive radio capabilities will work in areas where spectrum interference likely will occur. Prior trials of Super Wi-Fi RF technology have been conducted in Claudville, Va.; at Rice University in Houston; in Wilmington, N.C.; in Logan, Ohio; and at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters.

“Unlocking this valuable spectrum will open the doors for new industries to arise, create American jobs, and spur new investment and innovation,” says Julius Knapp, chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology. “The limited public testing of Spectrum Bridge’s database system is intended to allow the public to access and test the system to ensure that it correctly identifies channels that are available for unlicensed TV band devices, properly registers those facilities entitled to protection, and provides protection to authorized services and registered facilities as specified in the rules.”

A 2009 study funded by Microsoft and written by Perspectives Associates research analyst Richard Thanki estimated that Super Wi-Fi could generate between $3.9 billion and $7.3 billion in value to Americans in general each year. While most U.S. cities and towns have five or more vacated channels, the largest markets – like Los Angeles and New York City – may only have a few. In theory, users of the spectrum will not need a license to use the service, just like with Wi-Fi, but that may change if Congress manages to turn the “empty” spectrum into another revenue stream for the cash-strapped government.

The Background

A year ago, the FCC approved the use of the white-spaces spectrum for wireless data and Internet services. A number of companies, including Sprint, Google, Microsoft and HP, are developing plans to use those airwaves.

Super Wi-Fi operates in the 512 MHz-698 MHz band as opposed to 2,400 MHz and higher currently used for Wi-Fi. This reportedly will allow longer-range operation for Super Wi-Fi with better penetration through walls than the higher-frequency protocols, owing to the physical properties of the spectrum. In July, the IEEE published IEEE 802.22-2011 to be used for Wireless Regional Area Networks Super Wi-Fi services. The standard supports data rates as fast as 22 Mbps over a distance of as much as 100 kilometers. It uses such cognitive-radio capabilities as dynamic spectrum access, incumbent database access and spectrum sensing to mitigate harmful interference.

What Happens Now?

The FCC has established rules that require Super Wi-Fi devices to contact an authorized database system to obtain a list of channels not currently occupied by authorized radio services at their individual locations; they then must operate only on those channels. The trial of the Spectrum Bridge database system is scheduled to last for 45 days, ending Nov. 2.  Besides Spectrum Bridge, nine other companies have been approved to operate a white-spaces database but they have not yet been approved for a trial. They include Comsearch, Frequency Finder, Google, KB Enterprises, Key Bridge Global, LS Telecom, Microsoft Neustar, Telcordia and Wsdb.

Access the FCC’s white-spaces Public Notice by clicking here.

To read more about the new 802.22 Working Group standard, click here.

To learn more about Spectrum Bridge’s TV band database test facility, click here.

-George Lawton

The Daily

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