Wireless Experts Say The Signal Is Clear For Whitespace


  • Cambridge Consultants pinpoints three key growth sectors triggered by recent FCC decision

Cambridge Consultants, the single largest independent wireless team in the world, today highlighted three applications ripe for innovation and market growth due to the newly freed whitespace spectrum: rural broadband provisioning; municipal wireless networks; and in-home media distribution. The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released the final rules for whitespace radio devices, freeing up unlicensed bands to the public.  Those highly desirable “super Wi-Fi” whitespace connections can travel through walls and transmit at a distance ten times today’s Wi-Fi signals.  Experts suggest the rest of the world will not be far behind in legalizing unlicensed use of those unused TV channels freed up by the digital switchover, creating the potential for a $100B market1

“The last time a significant allocation of spectrum was released was in 1985 when the 2.4GHz band was written off as ‘junk spectrum’ due to its relatively poor range and wall penetration abilities,” said Luke D’Arcy, head of cognitive radio at Cambridge Consultants.  “But this action led directly to Bluetooth™ and WiFi technology, both now at the heart of multi billion dollar businesses.  Similarly, the FCC decision is significant because it levels the playing field by making high quality spectrum available to all, and free of charge when it had previously cost billions, which will rapidly accelerate innovation in ways we can’t imagine today.  That being said, it took more than ten years for volume production technology to be developed to take advantage of the 2.4GHz band.  But our experience and IP tells us that this does not have to be the case for whitespace radio.”

The three key growth areas identified by Cambridge Consultants include:

1) Rural Broadband Provisioning
There are around 3000 wireless internet service providers in the US, mostly serving rural communities.  By upgrading to whitespace radio these providers will be able to extend the range of their access points at least 300 percent, and remove the need for a line of sight between subscriber premises and the access point.  The overall result will be to greatly reduce the number of access points need to cover a particular community, reducing the cost of installing a network by up to 75 percent.  Spectrum Bridge already has a rural network set up in Claudville, VA, a small rural community lacking broadband connectivity.

2) Municipal Wireless Networks
In the utopian days after WiFi first emerged many cities planned city-wide free or very low cost wireless networks.  Unfortunately few of these have been successful, because the relatively short range of standard WiFi means that a huge number of access points are required to provide reasonable coverage, and the number of access points is the main contributor to the costs for the network operator.  Municipal whitespace networks will be able to deliver good coverage with a huge reduction of the number of basestations, potentially making municipal networks profitable.  Microsoft already has a network like this set up on its campus in Redmond, WA.  Dell and others have said that they will include such technology in their products.

3) In-home media distribution
There is increasing demand from consumers for a reliable way to stream personalized video to TVs throughout the home.  Existing WiFi networks struggle to provide the high bandwidth and quality of service needed to support video streaming, particularly for high-definition video.  The ability of whitespace radio to penetrate walls makes it an interesting technology for video distribution around the home. 

Earlier this year, Cambridge Consultants issued a report, which looked at how the highly desirable TV band could fundamentally change today’s wireless provider model while spotlighting technology hurdles that will limit immediate disruption.  As well, the InCognito™ whitespace radio developed my Cambridge Consultants can allow any radio product to transmit without interference over the whitespace frequencies.

1Thanki, Richard. “The economic value generated by current and future allocations of unlicensed spectrum” [online] (UK, Perspective Associates [cited 28 September 2009]) available from Internet: http://www.ingeniousmedia.co.uk/websitefiles/Value_of_unlicensed_-_website_-_FINAL.pdf

 

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


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