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White Space lobby leaps to Europe

What's good for the sceptics...

Having secured FCC approval for the use of cognitive radios in White Space on the American side of the pond, a lobbying consortium has jumped the Atlantic to try their luck with European regulators.

White spaces are frequencies that are allocated to TV transmissions, but that aren't being utilised fully thanks to the way that TV transmissions overlap to ensure ubiquity of coverage. In the USA, that leaves large swaths of frequency available, if you can avoid interfering with Eastenders.

Cognitive radios are supposed to avoid interfering with existing spectrum users by detecting and then dodging around them. In practice, it's proved more effective to know where you are and avoid frequencies that you know are being used locally. Detecting existing users is difficult, in some circumstances impossible, and it isn't made any easier by Europe's digital TV standard.

There's also the question of how much frequency is actually available. In the UK, that comes out at about 25MHz of bandwidth, assuming you can ensure your white space devices are more than 27 meters from a TV aerial. All but impossible anywhere but the most rural setting.

But the UK is not the only market in Europe, and in less space-restrictive countries it could be practical to utilise white spaces, which explains the White Space Coalition launching a European campaign at the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations.

Dr. Alexandre Kholod, of the Swiss Federal Office of Communications, told PolicyTracker, after the meeting, that he didn't see much spectrum available once mobile and PMSE* applications had been served. The French spectrum agency, ANFR, is preparing a report on the subject of white space use in France, but there are significant concerns about the ability of cognitive radios to avoid TV transmissions.

It's early days in the debate, and unlikely that we'll see the likes of Dolly Parton, or God, taking sides in Europe, but with manufacturers looking for economies of scale that Atlantic-spanning markets create ,the arguments will likely intensify. ®

* Programme Making and Special Events - wireless microphones, both professional and amateur, used for everything from church sermons to Big Brother.

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