Mobile Sands

February 25, 2009

White Space Spectrum Gone Missing? Just 1 Vacant Channel in LA, NY and SF

Filed under: white space — Tags: — AJ @ 3:51 pm

Opening TV White Spaces is supposed to bring us “WiFi on Steroids” . Really?

In one my previous posts, I had argued that the amount of white space spectrum available (as currently defined in FCC’s NPRM) is just not sufficient for wireless ISPs to launch services in urban areas.  But I was still optimistic about the use of white space spectrum for consumer electronics applications. So, when Spectrum Bridge launched a web-based tool to show the white space spectrum available at any location, I decided to use it to find the number of “white space'” channels available in downtowns of 6 major metro areas.

Here are the results:

  • Boston (@62 Boylston St): 5 channels
  • Chicago (@ N Michigan Ave): 9 channels
  • Dallas (@901 Main Street): 2 channels
  • Los Angeles (@138 S Central Ave): 1 channel
  • New York (@ 1460 Broadway Ave):  1 channel
  • San Francisco (@1298 Howard St): 1 channel

If Spectrum Bridge’s database is correct, it means that just one channel is available in downtown LA, NY and SF – three of the largest metro areas in the US.  This severly limits the use of white space spectrum for consumer electronics applications like home networking or in-home video distribution. Even a few towns/cities like LA, NY and SF are sufficient to increase return rate on a consumer electronics device by a few percentage points, which is terrible for the profitability of the product line.  Remember that white space devices also need geo-location capability as well, and they need to compete with mature 802.11 b/g/n devices. Overall, not great for the backers of CogNea standard (see recent press release from GeorgiaTech about goals of this alliance) or startups that want to enter this space.



  1. Amit, some good news. The current map reflects the fact that the FCC has delayed the digital transition. So it is showing some analog channels as well as digital counterparts (State of the world today). The number of available channels will go up in most metropolitan areas once the transition completes in June, and the analog channels are finally turned off. We will run a specific analysis on the cities you reference to see how much the delay is impacting availability.

    Comment by Peter Stanforth — February 25, 2009 @ 6:52 pm

  2. Peter, Thanks for the clarification. When I had looked at FCC document that lists TV channel allocation after the DTV transition (N_204_fcc-07-138a2.pdf on, I was able to identify more white space channels in major metros than what I found on It is great to have your database online and I look forward to an update in June.

    Comment by ajain — February 25, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

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