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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 10, 2014

TV White Spaces in 'All of the Above' Spectrum, Platform Future

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

TV white spaces trials in the United Kingdom are testing a range of applications, such as Internet access for rural communities, local services similar to Wi-Fi, wireless video streaming and support for machine-to-machine networks.

That should raise a question. How important might TV white spaces networks, be, and for which applications and settings?

The reason the question matters is that additional spectrum for licensed mobile operations and unlicensed Wi-Fi are seen as the key methods to address present and future communications needs.

And even if “all the above” is arguably the right answer for addressing demands for additional mobile and untethered bandwidth, policymakers, infrastructure providers and device manufacturers only have so much time and money to think about and implement solutions across the range of alternatives.

Think about WiMAX (News - Alert), where markets have shrunk so much that most suppliers cannot justify supporting the air interface any longer. Scale concerns have in the past been issues for air interfaces such as CDMA as well, when most of the world opted for GSM.

The big advantage of Long Term Evolution is that it is the first global standard for mobile communications, a fact that is quite helpful for the rest of the ecosystem.

To be sure, it also has to be noted that the ability to create a standard has in the past been viewed as a source of competitive advantage. That is why Sony fought so hard to get the Betamax standard adopted globally in place of the VHS standard for video cassette recorders.

In similar fashion, suppliers often see business value in getting new protocols adopted as de facto or de jure standards.

In other cases, the issue is less a matter of standards, and more a matter of where development effort and capital are best deployed.

In an “all of the above” scenario for mobile and untethered access platforms, important decisions about relative value and relative investment have to be made.

And some might argue it is not yet clear that TV white spaces, though a part of the range of solutions for Internet access, are more important than additional mobile or untethered access spectrum.

Nor is it yet clear how important TV white spaces might be, compared to platforms using unmanned aerial vehicles, balloons or new fleets of satellites. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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