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Telecoms band wants to drag White Space into the real world

Big players pressing for green light on data networking tech

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

A conglomerate of 23 telecoms organisations, including BSkyB and Indigo Telecom, have joined forces to make white space data networking a mainstream reality.

The group, calling itself the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, counts not only the usual universities and government-funded research labs amongst its membership, but also service providers such as BSky, Singapore's StarHub and UhuruOne from Tanzania.

This shows that White Space networking isn't just a technical fancy, but a revolution in the way that radio spectrum is used.

Nine research groups are involved, from Strathclyde to Tanzania via Taiwan, but the commercial partners are more interesting. UK cloud-based White Space pioneer Neul is there, along with partner Carlson (designer, and maker, of boxes using Neul silicon).

They are joined by 6Harmonics, a Canadian outfit who've been sliding Wi-Fi into the White Space bands, and US start up Adaptrum which has deployments in Uraguay and Virginia.

Other technologists include silicon vendors MediaTek and Wi-Fi stalwarts Ruckus, who can see the writing on the wall, as can BSkyB and the three other ISPs who've signed up.

Heavily involved is Microsoft, whose Technology Policy Group was apparently driven into White Spaces by Bill Gates himself. The TPG is behind a surprising number of White Space trials; from Ireland to Singapore and elsewhere, and has operational databases covering TV bands in the US and UK though the latter will only be available later this year.

Traditionally a radio frequency is allocated to a specific user, within a specific territory. So (for example) Qualcomm has exclusive use of the band running from 1452MHz to 1492MHz everywhere in the UK. No-one else is allowed to use that band, even if Qualcomm chooses to leave it empty.

We know from the Communist Manifesto that all property is theft; Qualcomm's "ownership" of that band is really just the right to deny others access. So, the band remains empty, as the only signals come from a few boffins at Quaclomm's Cambridge office who can't believe their luck.

Qualcomm can't sub-let the band either; one day the chip giant might find a use for it, or decide to sell it off. Naturally, that will be much harder to do if hundreds of people are squatting there, which is where Dynamic Spectrum Access can help.

Devices using DSA defer to a central database before switching on, and that database can allocate them any bands which are empty in their physical location. Initial deployments are using TV White Spaces; bands which are locally empty but used to transmit TV elsewhere, but the nature of DSA permits exploitation of any empty band, even if the emptiness is only temporary.

Assuming band owners agree to sub-let, the technology lives up to the promise and legislators agree to permit it. This new alliance will no doubt focus on the last of those points (i.e. they'll be lobbying governments for the necessary legislation), but the other two items will prove equally important if the technology is to realise its promise. ®

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