Friday, June 25, 2010

Delivering Smart Grid Solutions with TV White Spaces

Partnering with Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative and Telecommunications (PSREC) and Google, Spectrum Bridge deployed the nation's first "Smart Grid" wireless network trial using TV White Spaces. This marks the third successful White Spaces network solution deployed by Spectrum Bridge and continues to demonstrate alternative technology to help alleviate the perceived spectrum scarcity crisis.

In the Plumas County scenario, PSREC was investigating technologies to find a cost-effective solution to meet their challenges of providing rural broadband connectivity for customers over difficult terrain. TV White Spaces were a natural fit for providing an alternative solution because of the excellent propagation characteristics. "Plumas, Lassen and Sierra Counties are located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and present some very difficult challenges with respect to wireless coverage. The ability to use White SPace has proven to be an effective option for dealing with difficult terrain and offers another option for wireless connectivity," stated Lori Rice, PSREC's Chief Operating Officer.

Spectrum Bridge was able to help bring rural broadband connectivity to the PSREC customers using Spectrum Bridge's TV White Space database, which assigns non-interfering frequencies to white space devices. In addition, PSREC improved their System Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) applications, and upgraded their Smart Grid implementation with the addition of Google PowerMeter technology deployed to select residents in Plumas-Sierra County.

With the TV White Spaces technology, companies facing connectivity challenges have another option available for wireless rural broadband access. As we await the FCC's finalized White Spaces rules, we continue to move forward by developing new technology and software to help accomodate the growing demand for spectrum.

- Neeraj Srivastava, VP of Business Development

Thursday, June 17, 2010

TV White Spaces Summit - Recap

On June 15th, 2010, the Wireless Innovation Forum hosted a TV White Spaces Summit in Washington DC. Sponsored by Spectrum Bridge, Inc and TV Band Service, the event was well represented by key industry stakeholders. The meeting opened with a keynote by the Honorable Meredith Attwell Baker. Her message was clear stating that, “TV White Spaces could afford even greater promise to open doors to further innovation” and that she hoped, “we will be able to come together on these issues as well – sooner rather than later.”

The informative assembly included topics such as Commercialization Status, Applications Focus, Database Focus, Component Vendors, and proposed Changes to Current TV White Space rules. Some of the issues brought up for discussion included sensing requirements and its effect on the cost of consumer devices, the coexistence of wireless microphones and TV White Spaces, and finally, the timeframe for the FCC’s deliberation of White Space regulations and database management providers. The major concern is that while the market is ready, the FCC’s lengthy deliberation will cost TV White Space innovators their valuable position as leaders in the global marketplace for TV White Spaces. Commissioner Baker mentioned this predicament in her keynote, stating that, “In addition I find it a little ironic, and a little regretful, that other regulators, notably in the EU, as well as in countries like Singapore, are poised to act in an area where we once took the lead but have not been able to act since.”

The sense of urgency for the FCC rules to be finalized regarding TV White Spaces was also highlighted in a letter to the FCC on Monday by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) urging the FCC to “prioritize action on white spaces”. Their letter went on to say, “As you know, spectrum below 1 Gigahertz is both scarce and valuable…Due to the propagation characteristics of the frequencies, unlicensed broadband devices will be able to cover a far wider service area in rural areas than the range in which unlicensed devices operate today thus providing an opportunity to narrow the ‘digital divide’ that unfortunately continues to exist.” At the Summit, WISPA gave a statistic that 50% of their community cannot be serviced today due to geographic limitations such as trees, dense foliage, and mountainous terrains. They also spoke of the new “digital divide” in which urban populations today benefit from having unlimited broadband access for streaming video, social networking, research, education, etc, while rural populations have limited access to broadband and can only do certain things like check email or surf the web. While rural broadband and narrowing the digital divide is just one example of the need for broadband, it has become more clear that TV White Spaces can help fill the gap.

Community leaders from the deployed white spaces network in Wilmington/New Hanover County, NC, Mayor Bill Saffo and Chairman Jason Thompson, were also in attendance to share their insights and experiences. Mayor Saffo of Wilmington stated that the major benefit he sees regarding TV White Spaces availability is in regards to the Public Safety sector. Public safety is the biggest cost to Wilmington at 80% of the general fund budget. However, TV White Spaces have allowed the city to more effectively manage and allocate their resources on a federal, state and local level through the use of streaming live video to help monitor events in the community. Jason Thompson, Chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners reiterated the benefits that TV White Spaces has had on their community, allowing them to safely monitor their parks and significantly reduce energy costs in excess of $800,000 annually.
In addition to various panels throughout the Summit, Julius P. Knapp II, Chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering & Technology, reiterated the Commission’s progress in finalizing the rules and database applicant’s for TV White Spaces. As planned, the FCC will be meeting in the third quarter to discuss concerns brought up over sensing and wireless microphones and to finalize TVWS regulations.

Stay tuned for video clips from the Summit!

- Joe Hamilla, COO