2014 will be a defining year for the emergent TV white space industry, a major study by global spectrum management specialist PolicyTracker has concluded.
The sector feels that regulation not technology is its main barrier to success, according to an exclusive survey carried out for the report.
Over the next two years, a number of major technology standardisation efforts will reach completion, allowing standards-based white space devices (WSDs) to come onto the market in volume. In parallel, TV white space rule-making will start to snowball, as regulators align behind using geolocation databases to control the use of white space spectrum. These developments will spur the emergence of a vibrant, global white space industry.
“Technology is not the main barrier to progressing with TV white spaces,” according to Catherine Viola, the author of Developing a Global Ecosystem for TV White Spaces.
“We’ve seen from trials in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) that the technological approaches being developed today offer a viable way forward for using white spaces – the pockets of spectrum unused by digital TV broadcasting – without causing harmful interference to TV service and other existing band users.”
The completion of technology standards will drive the mass adoption of TV white space solutions, adds Viola. There is already a base standard for rural broadband access using white spaces (IEEE 802.22), and other standards addressing applications such as long-range WiFi-type hotspots (IEEE 802.11af) and machine-to-machine communications (Weightless) are being developed.
Within the next two years, much of the ongoing standardisation work will be completed.
“Stable standards will pave the way for technology suppliers to introduce white space solutions suitable for mass deployment. We expect standards-based chipsets, radio equipment, and terminals to become available in volume from around 2013–2014 onwards.”
In parallel with technology advancements, PolicyTracker expects the pace of white space regulation to accelerate over the next two to three years, and a harmonised, multi-regional regulatory approach to TV white spaces to emerge.
“So far, the US and the UK have led the way with white space rule-making,” says Viola, “and few other countries are moving towards suitable regulatory frameworks.”
This is set to change, Viola explains. “There is a growing consensus on using geolocation databases to control access to white space spectrum by WSDs, and this is beginning to act as a catalyst for white space rule-making. As regulators start to align behind geolocation, we expect white space regulation to cascade around the world. Countries of the Asia-Pacific region such as Singapore and Korea will be among the early movers.”
2014 could mark a watershed in the evolution of the TVWS industry, Viola believes. “If technology and regulation come together as we envisage over the next two to three years, the market could really accelerate from then.”
But enduring concerns from incumbent TV band users – broadcasters, programme-making and special events (PMSE), and radio astronomy – will need to be addressed if the TV white space industry is to flourish.
“Not all TV band users are yet convinced that their services will be adequately protected from harmful interference,” says Viola.
“Regulators and industry stakeholders will need to work together to overcome their outstanding concerns. Only then will it be possible for the TV white space industry to fully prosper.”
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