Mobile Sands

February 6, 2009

Behind the White Space Database Announcement…

Filed under: white space — AJ @ 1:48 pm

Yesterday, Google announced that it has teamed with Microsoft, Dell, HP, Motorola, Neustar and Commsearch to create a group to advise the FCC on how to create the “white space database”.  

The so called, “white space database” is a big sticky point in FCC’s Nov’08 Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on white spaces. The FCC decided that virtually all white space devices need to have geolocation capability (i.e. GPS) and be able to access a database of protected radios services (such as TV and public safetey) before operating.  The only exception is personal/portable devices operating under the control of a fixed device.

 The FCC made this decision because in its tests of five white space device (WSD) prototypes last year, only Motorola’s prototype device correctly reported all occupied channels used by TV stations.  Since Motorola used a geolocation/database access feature in combination with spectrum sensing, the FCC decided that a database to protect existing radio services is essential.

Both requirements –  geo-location and ability to connect to a database over the Internet – are very problematic for commercial use of white space devices.  GPS does not work well indoors and consumers may not always want to connect to the Internet.  It means that if you bought a home router that worked in white space spectrum, you will not be able to set it up in your basement without an external GPS antena.  And that, you will not be able to use a “WiFi-on-steroids” network in ad-hoc mode. The list of applications that would be restricted goes on.

Further, this database of protected radio services does not exist today.  Creating it is not easy because it must include the “service countour” of every protected service.   This process has not started yet can drag on for a very long time if all the current users of this spectrum decide to drag their feet.

According to the FCC’s NPRM, “the database will be established and administered by a third party, or parties, to be selected through public notice…” Google and its partners in the white space database group are trying to influence this process to make sure that this database uses an open and non-proprietary format.  Of the two smaller companies in this group, Comsearch (a spectrum management company) is probably wants to be involved in establishing service contours, and Neustar (a clearinghouse) would likely want to adminster the database.

Even if the database gets established, the geolocation requirement will restrict the adoption of white space systems. The alternative is for the cognitive radio technology companies to prove beyond doubt that spectrum-sensing along is sufficient to protect existing services.  This process may take a few years (research, building prototypes, FCC testing, public review of results, final ruling), but is essential for widespread use of white spaces.



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