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.