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TV White Space Spectrum for LTE: It's Free, but Not Cheap
If there's anything close to a consensus these days among operators, vendors, regulators, legislators and pundits, it's that mobile operators need more spectrum and fast. That message has come through loud and clear in their appeals to regulators and legislators, and it's typically backed by independent estimates that quantify both the shortage and the economic benefits of additional spectrum.

The spectrum shortage is an opportunity for vendors developing products and services for use in the TV white spaces (TVWS), which are unused and lightly-used chunks of spectrum between TV channels. TVWS spectrum spans roughly 450 MHz to 850 MHz, with the actual swath within that range varying by country. Regardless of each country's specific broadcast TV allocation, the TVWS spectrum is considered beachfront property because it's low in frequency compared to other cellular bands, such as 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz. Signals travel farther at lower frequencies, so fewer base stations are required, reducing the operator's overhead costs.

A few vendors are developing TVWS products that use LTE or Wi-Fi as the air interface. Some also are developing products that will enable operators to use TVWS spectrum with LTE-Advanced's carrier-aggregation feature. For example, an operator could combine one or more carriers from cellular spectrum and one or more from TVWS spectrum to deliver the amount of bandwidth that a particular application needs. Making this scenario a commercial reality will require changes to both LTE standards and operator mindsets.

TVWS spectrum is fundamentally different from cellular spectrum in the way that it's allocated. In the cellular bands operators have assigned frequencies, so their licenses protect against interference from other operators. In TVWS, TV stations are and will remain the primary, licensed users, along with grandfathered wireless microphones, so newcomers will have to find vacant slices of spectrum. As secondary users, the newcomers also will have to ensure such as through well-engineered devices that they're not interfering with the primary users.

TVWS bears watching by everyone not currently involved because its technologies have the potential to compete with and complement nearly every incumbent technology, wired and wireless. It's too soon to predict whether TVWS will become as commonplace as GSM or Wi-Fi, or whether it will be a niche play like WiMax or iDEN. For now, the ecosystem is growing and already populated with major players such as Google, Microsoft and Telcordia. But the size and number of interested and committed companies do not guarantee that those players will remain in the market a year or three from now. There's a cautionary tale in WiMax, where household names such as Intel decamped, and the sector never took off like its backers envisioned.

TV White Space Spectrum for LTE: It's Free, but Not Cheap identifies and analyzes these and other key issues affecting the TVWS market. It includes preliminary results from Huawei's lab tests of LTE in TVWS spectrum, and highlights from the Cambridge, U.K., field tests, as part of the discussion about performance.

Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents (4gltei0712_toc.pdf)
InterDigital is developing technologies to enable both LTE aggregation of TVWS carriers and TVWS offload for LTE. These projects are the latest examples of the company's overarching initiative over the past several years toward a "network of networks," where devices and services would seamlessly combine and/or transition between disparate network for reasons such as cost, QoS, operator policy and bandwidth requirements. The following excerpt illustrates how this network of networks architecture could include TVWS.
[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
Companies mentioned in this report include: Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU); Bell Labs, a subsidiary of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU); BT Group plc (NYSE: BT); Carlson Wireless Technologies Inc.; Comsearch Inc.; Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG); Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.; InterDigital Communications LLC (Nasdaq: IDCC); Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT); Spectrum Bridge Inc.; and Telcordia Technologies, recently acquired by Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC).
Total pages: 14
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