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FCC Opens White Space for Testing

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 1:40 PM on September 22, 2011

On Sept 19 the FCC opened up white space for testing for 45 days. What is white space and why is it important and the use of it controversial. White Space is the part of the frequency spectrum that is not being used. It came about with the switch from analog to digital. Because digital doesn’t use as much band width as analog there were spaces between channels that were not being used. These are known as white spaces. The FCC is now allowing companies to register and start testing devices within the white spaces for 45 days. One of the biggest controversy about white space is the problem of interference and how much space is needed between bands to avoid it. Spectrum Bridge a Florida based company has created the first database that shows where white space is available. That is the data base that is being used and tested. Other companies, including Google have registered to be white space administrator. Once the testing is done, then the FCC will review the results and see where interference occurred and what corrections need to be made.

What makes this test and white spaces themselves important is one use for it is what is known as Super Wifi. Super Wifi uses the lower frequency that exist within the white space. This allows it to travel the frequency to travel much further then traditional wi-fi does. It will also penetrate walls. Super wi-fi could be a boon for less populated areas where companies don’t want to spend the money to put in cables or fibre. The FCC has limited the wattage that can be used to 40 watts, this may or may not cut Super Wifi capability. Super Wifi will probably not be practical in more populated areas, where TV bands are much closer together and there is less white space available.

The National Broadcast Association is fighting the use of white space as it has been laid out by the FCC. They say it does not provide enough space between bands to avoid interference. Now lets be clear the area of the spectrum known as white space used to be license to TV companies under the old analog system. I suspect that they were not happy with the whole idea of white spaces. Companies like Google, Intel and Microsoft are looking forward to being able to use white space for not only wi-fi, but also Bluetooth devices. They may have to wait awhile, the Spectrum Database is first of many databases that have to be tested and the results evaluated. Just the testing itself is going to take over 300 days add to that the evaluation period and you are probably looking at late 2012 before white space will be available for commercial use. Once it is the possibilities could be limitless, but will unfortunately will probably be limited.

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