It’s been a long journey, but it shouldn’t be much longer until we start seeing broader availability of broadband wireless service delivered via TV white spaces technology.

After several years of trials,  the FCC more than a year ago issued an order allowing the use of TV white spaces for broadband service when managed by dynamic database technology. Since then various pieces have fallen into place. Manufacturers firmed up plans to build TV white spaces equipment. At least two companies were approved as database administrators. And according to Peter Stanforth, chief technology officer for TV white spaces database administrator Spectrum Bridge, a few wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) have deployed broadband service by obtaining an experimental license or special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC.

Other WISPs plan to offer broadband using TV white spaces and have placed equipment orders that have not yet been filled because the equipment that the WISPs require has been in short supply, explained Jack Unger, a technical consultant to the Wireless Internet Service Providers’ Association and former FCC official who was involved with white spaces while at the FCC.

Before long it should be considerably easier for WISPs to deploy broadband service using TV white spaces, Unger said, because two final hurdles should soon be addressed.

First, equipment should be more available.

Second, Unger explained, a notice issued by the FCC late last week should eliminate the need for WISPs to obtain an STA before deploying service. The reason is that the dynamic databases that underlie TV white spaces equipment will soon be capable of nationwide tracking of certain wireless microphones that are used in specific geographic areas for short periods of time, requiring spectrum to be temporarily reserved for their use.  (Some readers may remember that Dolly Parton weighed in with the FCC on the wireless mic issue back when the commission was exploring the TV white spaces concept.)

Verifying that dynamic database technology could keep tabs on wireless microphone users as well as various other users including local TV stations, is a final requirement that two database administrators — Telcordia and Spectrum Bridge –have now met. Initially the database administrators will be cleared to support deployments in TV white spaces spectrum in the East Coast region which includes New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia and North Carolina. According to the FCC notice, nationwide approval should follow shortly thereafter–by mid-January.

It’s ironic that TV white spaces databases will be approved for use initially on the East Coast, as most TV white space deployments are expected to occur in rural areas where other forms of broadband are less available and where TV broadcast spectrum is more likely to be vacant. The appeal of TV white spaces technology is that it should support relatively high bandwidth over relatively long distances – about 22 Mbps over distances as great as 100 kilometers — making it well suited for rural areas.

The AIR.U initiative which aims to bring broadband to rural university communities also plans to use TV white spaces technology.  The group’s plans call for rollouts to begin in the first part of 2013—and it appears that all of the required pieces should be in place by then.

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