Are we starting to see services making use of white space spectrum to fill gaps in rural broadband?
As described by the Government of Canada, “White space refers to spectrum in specific frequency bands that is not being used by other licensed radio services in certain geographic areas, thus making it potentially available to support delivery of other services such as wireless broadband Internet.”
The frequency bands currently being used for white space applications are making use of spectrum that is available from repurposed TV channels. The spectrum is assigned somewhat dynamically, with the White Space radio equipment communicating with a database to administers the available spectrum.
As described by Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development:
The management of the radio frequency spectrum has traditionally been a centralized process, with the access to spectrum overseen by a regulatory body. However, as technology has progressed, methods allowing dynamic spectrum access have begun to be developed to improve spectrum efficiency. A shift way from conventional licensing approaches could lead to a more flexible, adaptive administrative environment by enabling opportunistic use of the radio frequency spectrum. Such techniques for the use of [TV White Space] have the potential to improve spectrum efficiency while facilitating the introduction of new wireless communications applications in Canada.
Television spectrum has interesting propagation characteristics since it is in relatively low frequency bands, such as 470-608 MHz and 614-698 MHz. This can make these frequencies attractive for rural broadband internet. Indeed, the Licensing Framework for White Spaces speaks in terms of “Remote rural broadband systems (RRBS) [that] provide wireless service in remote rural communities in Canada, using TV channels that are unallotted and unassigned.” The technical rules for remote rural broadband systems permit higher transmitter power levels than typical White Space Devices [Radio Standards Specification RSS-222 | pdf, 269KB].
Right now, there aren’t many deployments of this spectrum in Canada, perhaps because of a limited number of suppliers of the technology. To date, Canadian based firms 6Harmonics and Redline Communications are the only vendors approved by ISED.
Will more service providers find White Space technologies and the repurposed TV spectrum bands to be a viable solution for rural broadband solutions?