Licensed White Space

Posted in white space at 10:29 am by JamesNeel

I’m coming to the conclusion that white spaces will ultimately be licensed. Sure, it’s a late entrant solution, but consider the following from different parties’ perspectives.

1: FCC (ultimately the only opinion that matters)

Their dual missions (more or less) is to increase public utility from spectrum and to maximize revenues for the government . If white spaces are licensed, they will get used (which increases efficiency over current usage, though likely less than unlicensed) and the government should make a bit of money (not easily done with unlicened devices). Further, licensing should provide better mechanisms for addressing interference (via punishment and after-the-fact management ala Nextel) than if the public has it (see Marines + garage door opener); plus these mechanisms would be ones the FCC is used to.

2: Service providers

Selling services over licensed spectrum is a model they know well, so they’ll be quite comfortable with it. Assuming fixed site equipment (ala 802.22), the networks should look a lot like femtocell networks which the service providers should be comfortable with. Now there will clearly be more spectrum in rural environments than urban environments, but rural broadband that’s the rationale for 802.22 and the ostensible rationale for the White Space Alliance.

3: Equipment vendors

They would still get to sell equipment, but now to customers with a clear business model. Plus any equipment sold would be more likely to conform to 802.22 which is virtually complete now, which means they’ll get to start making sales sooner than a yet to be defined standard for “WiFi on steroids”.

4. White space opponents (broadcasters / wireless mic users)

I think a key argument for them against unlicensed use was: “Who do we sue?”. With licensed service provisions, it should be readily apparent who is responsible for interference in different areas and they’ll have deep enough pockets (the service providers) to make it worth while to go after them (which then gives the service providers incentive to not interfere).

5. White space coalition (Google, Microsoft)

Except for perhaps Adaptrum, most of the White space coalition (or alliance or whatever they want to be called these days) are primarily interested in increasing available data bandwidth. They’ll get it with licensing. Motorola and Phillips should still be more than happy by the opportunity to sell femtocell-like white space equipment in a licensed environment.

6. End users

They’ll still get more data than if white space use is disallowed (though perhaps less than unlicensed), plus there will be an easier mechanism to provide for more than just hot-spot coverage (via the service provider infrastructure), which means more coverage than unlicensed.

Thoughts on licensed white spaces

  • This would make 802.22 a winning technology as it provides an immediate mechanism for implementing licensed white space access. Heretofore, I thought it might be DoA.
  • This should open up a transition to a mobile 802.22 standard.
  • Would still be good to not specify exactly what standard (or family of standards) has to be used in the spectrum to allow for usage to evolve.
  • Explicit permissions for resale, leasing and subdivision of licenses would be good.
  • I would still like to see some additional unlicensed spectrum opened up to let smaller markets bloom.
  • It would still be a significant step forward for cognitive radio, just a smaller one.

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