Feeds

WTF is... White Space radio networking?

Channel surfing

Boost IT visibility and business value

Feature 2012 will be the year White Space radio starts delivering networks of unprecedented speed and range, but if it works then White Space will also change how radio is used across the spectrum.

The first commercial radio networks utilising White Space are already running, but in eagerness to associate White Space with the ever-popular home wireless networking standard, Wi-Fi, the industry has been busy binding the terms together, creating "White-Fi" and leading to considerable confusion.

US spectrum map

Can you spot the White Spaces?
Click for full size image

After all, White Space has as much in common with Wi-Fi as a Renault Espace has with the M1.

Wi-Fi is a radio networking protocol, while White Space is a frequency band into which one can deploy low-powered radios. For historical reasons, White Space is cut into blocks that aren't even wide enough to fit a Wi-Fi signal, so a more accurate comparison would be a Renault Espace with a cycle path.

White Space could, more-appropriately, be compared to the 2.4GHz Industrial, Medical and Scientific (ISM) band where Wi-Fi is deployed - it's in the 5GHz band too - and Bluetooth also finds its home. The 2.4GHz band was reserved for unlicensed use globally, mainly because it was considered worthless given all the interference generated by microwave ovens - 2.4GHz is the frequency at which water absorbs radio signals, so good for heating food, but means Wi-Fi is blocked by wet leaves or fleshy bodies.

White Space working model

White Space usage
Source: Spectrum Bridge

The White Space band is way down the dial, at around 700MHz, so won't interact with water and propagates over much greater distances than 2.4GHz at the same broadcast power. But just as 2.4GHz gets filled with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, baby monitors and loads of other kit using proprietary protocols, so White Space will get cluttered with all sorts of different radios, but with one important difference: the White Space bands have an incumbent user which can legitimately demand exclusive use.

That user is broadcast television, whose enormous transmitters fill the airwaves with vitally-important repeats of Top Gear and The Jeremy Kyle Show. But the one-to-many architecture of broadcast systems, established decades ago unrestricted by concerns about spectrum shortages, leaves great swathes of the dial necessarily empty, and this is where the White Spaces lurk.

White Space : how it works

Transmitter A, above, broadcasts on, say, 622MHz, and covers the blue region with its signal. Transmitter B broadcasts the same bundle of television channels, but at 702MHz to avoid interfering with transmitter A. That means a low-powered transmitter at point X could use 622MHz for local-area networking without interfering with Eastenders.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
PwC says US biz lagging in Internet of Things
Grass is greener in Asia, say the sensors
Ofcom sees RISE OF THE MACHINE-to-machine cell comms
Study spots 9% growth in IoT m2m mobile data connections
O2 vs Vodafone: Mobe firms grab for GCHQ, gov.uk security badge
No, the spooks love US best, say rival firms
Ancient pager tech SMS: It works, it's fab, but wow, get a load of that incoming SPAM
Networks' main issue: they don't know how it works, says expert
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.