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White Space trial leaves PMSE grey area

A trial of next-generation wireless coverage, using so-called TV ‘white spaces’, drew to a close in last month with a ‘summit’ and conference held at the AirSpace Conference Centre in Cambridgeshire, writes Phil Ward.

A trial of next-generation wireless coverage, using so-called TV ‘white spaces’, drew to a close in Cambridge on 25 April with a ‘summit’ and conference held at the AirSpace Conference Centre in Cambridgeshire. Several big-hitters from broadcast, mobile telephony, IT and regulation authorities attended, although there was no direct representation from commercial PMSE suppliers.
Accordingly the potential of white space use was clearly demonstrated, of use to rural wireless broadband, urban ‘pop-up’ coverage and machine-to-machine applications spearheaded by the Cambridge Consortium of operators and entrepreneurs. The consortium includes interests as diverse as Alcatel-Lucent, BskyB, Microsoft, Neul and Samsung.
A statement followed from Ofcom’s spectrum policy group director, H Nwana, responding to the research results in Cambridge: “We welcome today’s results from the Cambridge White Space TV trial and look forward to other industry-led testing of the technology. There will soon be a real spectrum crunch and European consumers as a whole will lose out unless we find more fundamental ways – such as White Space technology – to meet demand. Within Europe, Ofcom has been leading the way to harness this capacity without causing harmful interference to existing users of the spectrum. It presents a big opportunity for innovation and enterprise and we are encouraged by today’s results.” The Ofcom HQ in London is pictured above.
Further details of the trial results are yet to emerge, while a brochure newly produced by the Cambridge White Spaces Consortium acknowledges constraints on capacity. On page 6, it reads: “There are many theatres, studios and other venues where wireless microphones are licensed to use TV white spaces and which must be protected from interference. This limits available white space spectrum at those locations. To assist Ofcom’s determination of restrictions that need to be applied to TV white space devices in the vicinity of these venues, the Cambridge Trial included analysis and measurement of what the protection requirements should be for PMSE applications”.
The EC’s head of the radio spectrum policy unit, Pearse O’Donohue, recognised that he was the “spy from Brussels with a clipboard”, but acknowledged that the Cambridge White Space TV trial would contribute to sensible allocation and management of frequency as part of a wider harmonization programme.
Referring to a similar project in Munich, speaker Paulo Marques, senior spectrum engineer at the Telecommunications Institute of Portugal, demonstrated a prototype PMSE sensor with database access: describing it as like “eBay for PMSE”, Marques outlined a system of online booking and reservation of white space at specific times and venues, within a clearance radius of 1km. Marques also supplied a graph showing the increased use of white space by PMSE suppliers during the Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf, Germany last year, its ‘spike’ acting as a clear warning to those assuming an unfettered free-for-all for white space entrepreneurs.