Friday, January 29, 2010

Will Two New Spectrum Bills Identify More Spectrum for Americans?

Last week, the House Communications Subcommittee approved two bills that are critical steps in uncovering more of one of our most precious natural resources: radio spectrum. (A companion bill sponsored by Senate Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., is pending.) These bills are more than just good news for the wireless industry; they’re good news for all American consumers, and the country as a whole.

Many Americans may be blithely unaware that the nation is on the verge of a looming spectrum scarcity crisis, perhaps because unlike petroleum, natural gas—or even solar or wind—our radio air waves are a natural resource that you can’t see, smell or feel. As consumers, our first hand personal experience of the spectrum shortage may be limited to when we experience dropped mobile calls, or can’t get an Internet connection. We might blame our carrier for poor service but don’t understand that our airwaves are a finite resource that is experiencing explosive demand. Many don’t realize how much our nation depends on wireless for our critical infrastructure – for utilities delivering smart grid and other power solutions and public safety services providing urgent communications – as well as our national defense. We might not pause to reflect on how wireless technologies help keep America competitive in a global economy. Some of us don’t even realize we are consumers of spectrum; we love our Blackberry’s, iPhones and laptops – and now our netbooks, iPads and whatever is “next”. We’re happy consumers of technology that entertains us and helps us communicate in new and amazing ways.

The good news is that the FCC has been steadily working toward evolving and improving how our spectrum is managed and allocated in recent years, from approving a secondary market for spectrum, to creating a national broadband plan, to freeing up TV white spaces, the broadcast waves left dormant by the Digital TV transition. Last week’s spectrum legislation will help us dig deeper into how efficiently spectrum is being used and where pockets of idle spectrum exist.

More good news for consumers: While companies have been developing all of the cool new gadgets you want next, Spectrum Bridge has been quietly but swiftly developing new technologies for increasing spectrum availability and efficiency. The new gadgets consumers will enjoy in the future will be made possible through spectrum allocation software born in our labs. In fact, many of the wireless gadgets and services you use now are already supported by a host of Spectrum Bridge tools and technologies.

In 2008 we launched the world’s first online spectrum exchange, is helping thousands of organizations access spectrum on the secondary market for their wireless operations right now. We’re finding new life for old spectrum – by repurposing certain types of spectrum for new applications.

We’re helping companies find more spectrum through geo partitioning, disaggregation and other on-demand leasing strategies, and helping them maximize their spectrum assets and find new opportunities with SmartWaves, our innovative spectrum intelligence software, all right now.

We’ve been at the forefront in developing mixed spectrum solutions and in developing a groundbreaking TV white spaces database that is helping people all over the US locate available TV white spaces channels in their areas, right now. In October of 2009, under an experimental license, Spectrum Bridge launched the world’s first TV white spaces network, bringing high speed broadband Internet access to the citizens of Claudville, Virginia. Claudville is online right now. (We’ll be updating everyone with a bigger status report on the network and the tremendous impact it has had on the Claudville community in this blog next week.)

We applaud the House for approving these bills for a thorough inventory of the nation's communications spectrum. As FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker recently said, we need to “leverage the spectrum that exists more efficiently” and “encourage new technologies and innovation.” These two bills will now move to the full House Energy and Commerce panel for consideration, where we hope they will receive equally quick action. American consumers, businesses, our critical infrastructures, and the future of our national best interests deserve nothing less.

Meanwhile, the team at Spectrum Bridge continues to support wireless spectrum needs now and for what’s next. With the spectrum bills in place and many of Spectrum Bridge's innovative spectrum efficiency tools and technologies already in progress, our ultimate vision for making more spectrum available for wireless applications, Universal Spectrum Access, will usher in a more prosperous wireless nation.

We’re working on it, right now.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Video Interview with Chairman Genachowski on the Spectrum Shortage

Fortune taped an interview with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at the 2010 CES show in Las Vegas. Below is about 60 seconds of the interview where he talks directly to the spectrum shortage.

Spectrum Bridge was formed several years ago when the company founders realized that wireless networks would face increasing bandwidth and coverage constraints due to a lack of available spectrum. To address this Spectrum Bridge has brought several revolutionary products and services to market as part of a multifaceted approach to:
  • Increasing access to all types of spectrum.
  • Improving allocation to better match available spectrum to network and application demands
  • Helping network operators more efficiently use spectrum to deliver more bandwidth
These products and services include:
  1. SpecEx:The online marketplace for spectrum®. Find over $500 million of secondary market spectrum available for sale or lease - online.
  2. SmartWaves: The industry's leading spectrum asset manager and business analytic solution.
  3. ShowMyWhiteSpace TV white spaces database: This database powers the world's first TV white spaces wireless network in Claudville VA, as well as - where anyone can conduct a simple and free search to find available TV white spaces at any location in the United States. Spectrum Bridge submitted a proposal to the FCC to be named a white spaces database manager on January 4th.
  4. Universal Spectrum Access: Using database driven dynamic spectrum allocation to cost-effectively identify, manage and optimize spectrum use within (and across) wireless networks and application.

We’d like to hear from you about the impact that spectrum scarcity is having on your business or industry.

  • How has spectrum availability influenced your business or industry’s wireless growth or expansion?
  • What wireless services and applications do you see experiencing the biggest impact by spectrum availability?
  • What do you think should be done from a policy or technical standpoint?
  • What solutions are you employing or planning to deal with this issue?

Rick Rotondo
CMO & Co-Founder
Spectrum Bridge Inc.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Will TV white spaces users be charged database access fees?

Since the TV white spaces database manager proposals were filed earlier this month, we’ve noticed that there is a misconception circulating in the media that the majority of database managers are proposing to charge end users to access the white spaces database. If you review the actual proposals filed with the FCC, this is not the case.

It appears that there are only two of the nine proposals explicitly contemplate (as one possible way of collecting fees) charging the end user directly for access to the white spaces database. Additionally, only one of the proposals suggests that users will be charged multiple times or on an annual basis.

In the other proposals where user fees are discussed, charging the end user was not considered to be a real option. Given that the FCC is likely to choose one or more of the companies that do not intend to charge end users any fees, it appears that white spaces users will have multiple database managers to choose from who are not planning to charge any user fees. Spectrum Bridge is one of the companies that does not plan on charging end user fees.

Also, per the FCC's request, most the database manager proposals noted that they would provide free access to the database for incumbent and protected entities (like TV stations, wireless microphone users, etc) who currently use TV broadcast frequencies. Some of the proposals did not address this issue.

Several of the proposals (depending on how you interpret the responses) discuss or leave open the possibility of relying on a onetime "database fee" that gets built into the cost of the white spaces device at the time of purchase. This would cover the operation and maintenance of the database and would be similar to fees commonly paid by manufacturers - who often license software or technology from third-parties. Even in this scenario, there are no recurring database fees that the end user will pay to use the device or spectrum; the database fees would be included in the initial purchase price of the white spaces device.

Taking a sightly different approach than the rest of the proposals, at least two of proposals also suggest that they would consider charging TV white space network operators an initial and/or an annual fee based on the number of devices they manage in their network.

We all need to keep in mind that the business models, fees and other aspects included in the database manager proposals will likely get refined and altered by competitive market forces. Competition from multiple database managers will likely keep costs low, while potentially leading to new features and services that will help make TV white spaces a wireless resource we will all benefit from.

Rick Rotondo

Friday, January 8, 2010

Clarifying the FCC authorization process for database managers

After we posted our PN for White Spaces database manager, we’ve had the opportunity to speak with a number of the wireless media about how a white spaces database will work.
(For an overview on TV white spaces and the role of the database manager, see our previous blog post here.)

One question that came up recently had to do with how the white spaces database managers will be authorized, and it revealed a pretty significant misconception about the authorization process the FCC is undertaking. In the case of one reporter, there seemed to be the misunderstanding that the FCC is somehow going to "contract" with one or more companies to run the TV white spaces database and will therefore be funneling business and revenue to them. This is not the case.

Perhaps the confusion comes from trying to relate what the FCC is does to what other agencies do (like the DoD) when awarding "contracts" to private companies. In the case of the DoD they award a specific contact and dollar amount to a company to provide a product or service. In this case, money is being steered to a specific company and there are usually clear winners and losers in the process when taking a monetary point of view.

However, the FCC process for "authorizing" commercial third-party providers of services takes a much different approach and results in an entirely different outcome. Specifically, in the case of TV white spaces database managers, the FCC is authorizing companies to represent themselves as being able to meet the minimum requirements the FCC has set out in its previous Report and Order, as well as some new requirements spelled out in the recent Public Notice.

Once authorized, each of these companies then have to develop their own business model, find their own customers, determine their own pricing and even determine whether they actually want to go into the business of becoming a database manager; they are under no obligation to actually provide this service once authorized. And if more than one company is authorized, each will have to compete for business in the open market.

There are clear advantages to the FCC for authorizing more than one database manager:
  • Increased market competition
  • Lower fees and prices for users
  • Redundant connectivity to physically separated database servers
  • More opportunities for enhanced service from database managers

All of the 9 companies who applied to become database managers (including Spectrum Bridge) seem to agree that the FCC should authorize several managers for these and other reasons. We are indeed pleased to be among such a great group of companies being considered by the FCC.

Rick Rotondo
Spectrum Bridge Inc.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Spectrum Bridge submits white spaces database manager proposal to FCC

This afternoon we submitted our TV white spaces database manager proposal to the FCC in response to their Public Notice.

By submitting our proposal, Spectrum Bridge can now be officially considered for, and selected as, a database manager by the FCC.

UPDATE: (1/5/2010) - follow this link to see all the 9 proposals submitted from:

  1. Spectrum Bridge
  2. Google
  3. Nuestar
  4. Comsearch
  5. Telcordia
  6. KeyBridge
  7. WSdb
  8. Frequency Finder Inc.
  9. KB Enterprises LLC

The FCC has ruled that white space devices (like wireless PCs and netbooks, smartphones, wireless music and video players, eBook readers, etc) must talk to a database to get a list of allowable frequencies it can use before it can start transmitting. The database manager insures that these devices get accurate and up-to-date frequency information.

TV white spaces hold tremendous promise for deploying a variety of applications including:

  • Wireless Internet connectivity for rural and other under served communities
  • Cost-effective Muniwireless and community wireless access
  • High speed broadband communications for enterprises and private business networks
  • Content distribution throughout a city or community
  • Whole house and office video, music and data networking

Because of this, naming TV white spaces database managers is an important step in bringing this valuable wireless spectrum to market.

We expect several other companies, agencies and organizations to submit proposals as well. We'll all know in a day or two who as applied since the deadline for proposals was this afternoon, and the FCC usually posts public records (as these proposals are) within about 24 hours of receiving them.

You can find Spectrum Bridge's official response and proposal here.

To learn more about TV white spaces, what a white spaces database is, or to find which TV white spaces frequencies are available at your home or office - see our previous blog post here.

Rick Rotondo
CMO & Co-Founder
Spectrum Bridge Inc