Controversial FCC White Space Decision Creates "Goldrush" Opportunities
Service providers can offer new services to rural communities, and possibly take advantage of the broadband rollout funds available from the government.
After an epic battle between the U.S. broadcasting industry and high-tech companies, the FCC ruled in November 2008 that it would open up white space spectrum (54 MHz to 698 MHz) once TV stations move from analog to digital transmissions and no longer need the bandwidth "guard rails" required by analog. Congress has set the date for that transition for June 2009.
"The decision to open up new spectrum is one of the most contentious the FCC has ever made," says ABI Research vice president Stan Schatt. "It's the equivalent of the government opening up a previously untapped oilfield. This is very valuable spectrum because unlike most wavelengths used by wireless communications, it allows signals to pass through terrain features such as hills and forests, greatly increasing usable range."
An epic battle led up to this decision. The broadcast industry and wireless microphone vendors were opposed, expressing concerns about possible interference from WSDs (white space devices). To address their objections, the FCC has established several safeguards.
In the supporting camp are device manufacturers, chip makers, consumer electronics vendors, some politicians, and hopeful service provider startups which, says Schatt, are likely to be the first to take advantage of this opportunity. "Service provider startups will use this spectrum to offer new services to rural communities in particular. In sparsely populated areas there's a lot of white space available. If they move quickly enough, it's even possible they can take advantage of some of the $7 billion in broadband rollout funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."
A new ABI Research Brief, The US White Space Spectrum Opportunity: 802.22, CogNeA, and Wi-Fi Join the Gold Rush outlines the FCC requirements and describes the possible impact of the IEEE draft 802.22 "cognitive radio" specification. It discusses the new CogNeA vendor group, the role of Wi-Fi, and possible implications for WiMAX vendors and specific other major stakeholders. Product and service timelines, and projections for 2010 and 2011, are also included.