Unlicensed whitespace frequencies could revolutionize wireless networks, experts say


New report offers inside perspectives from industry leaders on the impact of whitespace radio, discussing market opportunities and new wireless products and services  

Cambridge, MA & Cambridge UK – April 20, 2010 – Watching YouTube on your living room TV while surfing the web at home – all courtesy of your favorite coffee chain’s wireless network.  This is the not-too-distant future thanks to a world with whitespace, according to a new report released by Cambridge Consultants.  The report offers rare insight based on a collection of experts from across the wireless industry.  Including companies such as Google, Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Philips, Nokia and CSR, the report discusses the potential $100B US market  for wireless technologies enabled by whitespace frequencies.

The report, ‘Whitespace: a revolution in wireless communications?’, looks at how the highly desirable TV band whitespace could fundamentally change today’s wireless provider model while spotlighting technology hurdles that will limit immediate disruption.  The new whitespace frequencies, recently authorized in the US by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), greatly increase the global wireless bandwidth available to computers, set top boxes, laptops, WiFi hot spots and other radio devices that currently use the unlicensed bands around at 2.4 and 5 GHz.

Consensus from the report states that new wireless devices will soon emerge taking advantage of the increased range and wall-penetrating ability of the newly allotted band. These devices will allow existing providers to take on the growing demand, by supplementing traditional cellular networks.  In addition they may open up the market for disruptive new entrants – potentially allowing existing WiFi hotspot providers, major coffee chains, for example, to offer paying customers free internet connection that is not just restricted by their shop, but extending across a wide area thereby creating a low cost wireless broadband capability in some urban environments.  The data crunch has already begun. 

According to recent data from comScore, smart phone ownership in the US increased from 11 percent to 17 percent in 2009.   That rate is projected to skyrocket as the market for always-on wireless devices, such as Google’s Nexus One or Apple’s iPad, continues to grow. Cisco estimates that by 2014 global data traffic will increase 39 times, reaching 3.6 exabytes, or 3.6 billion gigabytes per month.   In terms of mobile data usage, Ericsson reported in December 2009 that for the first time mobile data traffic has overtaken voice, with a 280% increase in the last two years.  Meanwhile the unlicensed band could allow for a new approach that challenges traditional models for spectrum usage, opening up new entrants to the wireless broadband market, spurring competition and vastly increasing market potential.

“The current, static method of dividing up spectrum is inefficient and increasingly unaffordable.  Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that the current wireless networks are creaking,” said Luke D’Arcy, head of cognitive radio at Cambridge Consultants.  “Existing cellular networks, based on 2.5G and 3G technology, will certainly not be able to meet forecast demand for wireless data.  Next generation networks such as LTE technology (Long Term Evolution) will help in the short term, but through initiatives such as whitespace radio, unlicensed spectrum can also play a major role.”

The industry leaders, who gathered at a recent Cambridge Consultants hosted working session, agreed that there have been technological hurdles to new devices, with companies struggling initially to design devices that find free spectrum in the TV band without interfering with wireless microphones or TV signals.  However, the group noted that a move by the FCC to set up an on-line database of available frequencies makes the technical implementation much easier, opening the door to practical devices.

The report concludes that, though opposed to whitespace radio due to interference issues, the wireless microphone industry stands to gain in terms of market disruption, while noting that unlicensed networks based on whitespace radio could seriously rival cellular networks for coverage in urban areas.  Meanwhile, the report also concludes that the widespread adoption of whitespace could radically reduce the number of access points needed to service advertising-based municipal wireless networks, drastically reducing the cost of free public wireless internet for towns and cities.  Can I get you an espresso with free internet connection to go?

To request a full copy of the Whitespace Radio Report, please visit www.cambridgeconsultants.com/fm_whitespace-10.html.

Notes for editors
Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology critical issues for clients worldwide.  For 50 years, the company has been helping its clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies.  With a team of over 300 engineers, designers, scientists and consultants, in offices in Cambridge (UK) and Boston (USA), Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, transport, energy, cleantech and wireless communications.   

Throughout 2010, Cambridge Consultants celebrates its 50th year in business.  Created by three Cambridge graduates in 1960, the company has grown into a leading technology business, renowned worldwide for its ability to solve technical problems and provide innovative, practical solutions to commercial issues.  In 2009, the company was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade.  For more information visit: www.CambridgeConsultants.com 

Cambridge Consultants is part of Altran, the European leader in innovation and high technology consulting.  The Group’s 17,500 consultants, operating worldwide, cover the entire range of engineering specialities, including electronics, information technology, quality and organisation.  Altran offers its clients ongoing support throughout the innovation cycle, from technology watch, applied basic research and management consulting to industrial systems engineering and information systems.  The Group provides services to most industries, including the automotive, aeronautics, space, life sciences and telecommunications sectors.  Founded in 1982, Altran operates in 20 priority countries.  In 2008, it generated a turnover of €1,650 million.  For more information visit: www.altran.com

For further information, please contact:

Cambridge Consultants
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Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications
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