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White Space and how it hopes to solve the mobile data explosion

August 5, 2012
By Loh Ving Sung GooglePlus

Part II: Challenges, trials and the future of White Space

05 August 2012 - A few weeks ago, we talked about the potential of White Space. It is cheaper that current GSM networks than and potentially just as fast. More importantly, White Space is seen as the technology that will help solve our finite spectrum woes.

While the potential is there, White Space is worrying American broadcasters who says the technology will interfere with TV broadcasts. In a statement sent to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), broadcasters say white space will 'euthanize' broadcast TV and 'represents a movement to totally eliminate television broadcasts'.

Broadcasters say that the usage of TV white spaces (which exist between TV frequencies) will interfere and clash with TV frequencies that will affect picture quality.

Other opposition comes from the WiFi trade association - the WiFi Alliance - who disagrees that White Space should be marketed as Super WiFi.

According to WiFi Alliance’s CEO Edgar Figueroa, the term may create unreasonable expectations for consumers that white space is the technically superior version of WiFi.

"It is unfair for this early market (white space) to be compared to most successful unlicensed technology ever", says Figueroa.

Figueroa is worried that lay people will expect WiFi like usage when it comes to White Space, and consumers might mistake their current WiFi devices to be able use white space. 

Trials and tribulations

A working white space network might be years away, but small scale working models are currently being tested out in the UK and the U.S.

American trials are being conducted in North Carolina, in a town called Wilmington, where the local government is using it to manage the town’s infrastructure like monitoring Wilmington’s environmentally sensitive wetlands, water pump stations and when to turn off lights for the town’s stadiums. The service has not been extended to everyday consumers yet.

In the UK, the country’s White Space consortium has recently declared its technology trials in the city of Cambridge a success after its system managed to get 8Mbps out to the rural citizens of Orwell. The consortium also said that during its trial it was able to help offload mobile broadband traffic during peak hours.

Meanwhile, companies like Alcatel Lucent are proposing a national white space cloud service for North America. The cloud service is set to blanket an area that includes rural and urban areas. Alcatel Lucent’s proposed service is similar to trials in Wilmington and Cambridge, and will hopefully allow cities offload their heavy broadband data during peak hours and comes with the potential for smart city applications that monitors utilities in the city. The proposed network has enough range to support rural areas as well.

A quick search on Google does not reveal much about testing or regulation of White Spaces in Malaysia. With local telecommunication companies focused on LTE (Long Term Evolution), White Space may be a way off before it gains any traction here. However, reported that 'senior industry and regulatory members' from Malaysia attended the closing event of the Cambridge trials, which ended April of this year.

White Space is currently marketed as a rural wireless broadband product, and a product that helps offload peak broadband data instead of a primary wireless broadband solution. However, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President, Dan Reed who spoke to 150 people at the end of the Cambridge trial, who said that, "It (the white space trial) had all the hallmarks of a solution that has moved from being peripheral to mainstream".

We certainly hope so.


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