When we first started hearing about technology to enable network operators and others to utilize unused television broadcast spectrum known as “white spaces” for high-speed data communications, the name that became almost synonymous with the “white spaces” term was Spectrum Bridge. But now that the FCC has approved the use of TV white spaces for non-broadcast applications, competitors to Spectrum Bridge are beginning to appear—including software giant Microsoft.
Spectrum Bridge was a pioneer in developing dynamic database technology to keep track of used and unused white spaces spectrum on an up-to-the-minute basis and to assign unused spectrum to devices designed to communicate in that spectrum band. By using the TV white spaces spectrum, devices can support what some call “super WiFi” communications that provide greater bandwidth than traditional WiFi over greater distances.
Spectrum Bridge’s successful tests of its technology involving everything from a rural broadband application to the smart grid, played a key role in persuading the FCC to allow the use of white spaces spectrum outside the broadcast industry.
But when the FCC assigned TV white spaces database administrators, Spectrum Bridge was only one of several companies, including Google, to be selected for that role. Since then, Microsoft’s research wing also has applied to be a white spaces database administrator citing their SenseLess White Spaces initiative, and, according to a report published by MIT’s Technology Review, the company also has demonstrated its white spaces database technology in a prototype device manufactured by a startup company called Adaptrum.
Microsoft is hoping that eventually the FCC will extend the white spaces database concept to other spectrum bands and to lessen restrictions on how the TV white spaces spectrum can be used, Technology Review reported. The Technology Review article quotes a Microsoft researcher who pointed to research showing that an HD movie stream can be transmitted over the same channel being used by a wireless microphone, which uses frequencies close to the television broadcast spectrum without causing any noticeable degradation to the microphone’s performance.
When it approved the TV white spaces spectrum plan, the FCC hinted that it would consider using the same idea in other spectrum bands that also might have white spaces. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has been a particularly strong supporter of the concept, noting that the U.S. has an opportunity to be a world leader in developing the technology.
Apparently Microsoft also sees a worldwide opportunity, as the Technology Review report notes that the company already has modified its technology for use in Finland, Singapore and the U.K.—three countries that also are planning white spaces initiatives.