TV White Space: Is the Picture Becoming Clearer? Mark Messer Technical Solutions Manager

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1 TV White Space: Is the Picture Becoming Clearer? Mark Messer Technical Solutions Manager What is TV White Space? Simply stated, TV White Spaces (TVWS) are vacant VHF and UHF frequencies made available for unlicensed use at locations where spectrum is not being used by licensed services, such as television broadcasting. This spectrum is located in the VHF band from MHz and the UHF band from MHz. Television Frequency Bands: Historical Briefing The beginning of frequency allocation for television dates back as early as July 1928 when the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) now known as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized an experimental license for broadcasting video services within the VHF band (very high frequency;) on low-band channels 2-6 (54-88 MHz). The FCC established television engineering standards in May 1941 which promoted the authorization of commercial licensing (VHF frequency allocations). Additional television frequency allocations were suspended during the World War II era but in 1945 additional VHF frequency allocations were made available for channels 7-13 ( MHz). The advent of television standards, and the addition of frequency allocations, drove the competiveness of the broadcast industry. By 1951 broadcast stations were available from coast to coast using the VHF low-band and highband frequency format. Because of the number of operating VHF stations across the country, concern was raised that any additional commercial license authorizations would create interference conditions between station locations. In order to prevent the inevitable interference issues, and support additional growth for the television broadcast industry, the FCC (around 1952) allocated frequencies within the range of MHz known as the UHF band (ultrahigh frequency) on channels Do Not Copy Without Written Permission Page 1

2 The wide range of frequency/channel assignments in the VHF and UHF band allocations continued supporting major, independent, and educational television networks operations for years. Until 1983, UHF band allocations were exclusive to the television broadcast industry. During that same year the FCC reallocated channels 70-83( MHz) for Public Safety and commercial mobile phone use. This reduced the UHF band from the then current MHz to a re-banded MHz. The FCC approach to frequency allocation and policies continued to be driven by services that were derived from specific requests. Hence, in the area of mobility (and fixed broadband) data services growth, technological advancements and the development of high bandwidth applications (using 3G and 4G services) the FCC was compelled to identify under-utilized or unused frequencies to support these increased demands. Since 1983 the UHF band has been reduced by 108 MHz to accommodate the advancement and demand of mobile voice and data usage. In order to meet the demand for additional spectrum (to support evolving data driven technology) the FCC devised the Digital Television (DTV) transition plan. This required moving all analog broadcasting to a digital format. The transition began September 2008 and was completed in June 2009, thus making the MHz spectrum available for advance data services. The FCC conducted an auction in 2008 with 214 bidding applicants and raised $ billion. The completion of the 700 MHz auction reduced the UHF band allocation to channels 14-51; ( MHz). Since the 700 MHz auction the telecom incumbents have implemented a build out of 4G LTE technology service platforms. Again, it has become apparent that spectrum allocation requirements are needed to meet the high bandwidth, innovative devices and applications here in the United States. The appetite for additional spectrum is universal, however. It is estimated there are 6 billion wireless device connections around the world and an estimated 50 billion devices will be on line by the year All licensed bands are now being pushed to their limits. This includes the unlicensed bands at 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, 3.65 GHz ( lite-licensed ), and 5.2/5.3/5.8 GHz which are predominantly used by wireless internet service providers (WISPs); a group of business minded entrepreneurs serving rural communities across the nation. Today, the current spectrum bands being utilized provide a wealth of data and entertainment services for the broadband user community. Much of the allocated frequency bands in operation require line of sight (LOS). In other words, to work effectively and efficiently, the transmitter and receiver require a clear path unencumbered by any obstructions. Also, by comparison, higher frequencies (e.g. 5.8 GHz) suffer higher signal losses due to terrain, trees, and structures than the 900 MHz band. Lower frequencies have a superior radio wave propagation factor and are better suited to travel across terrain and penetrate obstructions (such as trees and structures). Therefore, the television UHF band of MHz has been targeted for expansion of services and coined as TV White Space (TVWS) Do Not Copy Without Written Permission Page 2

3 Figure A: Television Frequency Allocations Timeline Connected Nation Federal Radio Commission (now Federal Communications Commission) authorizes experimental VHF license for video service Federal Communications Commission defines television standards; VHF band; channels 2-6; 54-88MHz available Federal Communications Commission opens additional VHF frequency allocations; channels 7-13; MHz Television stations operating coast to coast; inevitable interference issues due to lack of additional frequencies Federal Communications Commission allocates frequencies in the UHF band; channels 14-83; MHz to promote additional growth for television broadcast industry. Federal Communications Commission allocates UHF channels 70-83; MHz for Public Safety and commercial mobile phone usage to Present Federal Communications Commission digital television mandate required TV broadcasters to relocate analog services from the channel 52-69; MHz band to support advance mobile data services. Auction of the 700MHz band completed to meet demands of growing data services. Federal Communications Commission is hosting conceptual ideas, standards, hardware development, and policies of utilizing TV broadcast frequencies under an unlicensed environment to support the growth, demand of bandwidth intensive applications, and extending services into the rural areas of America. Coined as TV Whitespace (TVWS) Do Not Copy Without Written Permission Page 3

4 Identifying TV White Space The illustration below represents 3 contiguous, vacant channels that were identified by following FCC technical guidelines and by using industry accepted on-line tools. Figure B: TVWS Channel Availability There are many unused TV channels, across the nation which qualifies as TVWS. This availability of spectrum varies geographically, but in almost all cases, can be used for a magnitude of services and applications. While wireless broadband development into the remote rural areas has been fairly cost effective using unlicensed spectrum, with the propagation characteristics of TVWS, the capital investment can be reduced even further. TVWS brings a high level of interest to the forefront of the WISPs business plans for rural development and filling voids of current service areas. Capital and Operating Cost Savings - Coverage Feasibility Perspective The attraction of TVWS spectrum for WISPs (and other telecom providers) is highly desirable because of their exceptionally robust propagation characteristics (as mentioned earlier). The coverage depictions below demonstrate the economics of the business (capital and operating cost savings for an operator) utilizing TVWS. The illustrations below compare a propagation overlay of a 2.4 GHz transmit site to that of a TVWS transmit site 1. It is easy to recognize that the coverage feasibility alone provides a high level of increased coverage and potential cost savings. 1 The area topography (terrain elevations) and land usage (structures and foliage) clutter were included to calculate the distance and coverage of the radio wave based on the receiver s optimum receive level threshold Do Not Copy Without Written Permission Page 4

5 Figure C: Coverage Area Comparison of a transmit site using 2.4 GHz and/or TVWS Athens Access Point 2.4GHz Coverage: Average Distance of Coverage= miles # of Households within Coverage= 8,437 Athens Access Point TVWS Coverage: Average Distance of Coverage= miles # of Households within Coverage= 17,802 Athens Access Point Overlay: 2.4GHz and TVWS Coverage As illustrated with the coverage overlay, approximately 4 additional 2.4GHz access point locations would require construction to meet the coverage of a single TVWS access point Do Not Copy Without Written Permission Page 5

6 Figure D: Extending the TVWS Service Area Connected Nation Combined HH Count for Athens and Chandler 2.4GHz Access Point (in Grey): 17,870 Combined HH Count for Athens and Chandler TVWS Access Point (in Orange): 69,920 Figure D, above, identifies the predicted service area provided by 2 TVWS access points (orange) compared to 2.4 GHz (grey). One quickly notes that it would take approximately 8 additional 2.4 GHz transmitters to cover the same geographical coverage as the 2 TVWS access points. Theoretically, the operating cost savings ratio of 5:1 is conceivable for a single TVWS service area. FCC Legislative Timeline Perspective As with all innovation advancements, the political layer becomes the lagging factor that determines (i) the level of uncertainty across chip set developers, (ii) the requirements levied on the device and base station manufacturers, and; (iii) the desire and decisions of the entrepreneurs (such as WISPs) to expand their service territory and deliver broadband services into the remote rural areas to Present July 2007 was the approximate official technological start date for the FCC s engagement into TVWS when the FCC s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) released a report of 2012 Do Not Copy Without Written Permission Page 6

7 preliminary devices with the sensing capability to determine the presence of a TV broadcast channel. The report denounced the devices meeting the technical requirements. In October 2008 OET issued a report on white-space devices (WSD) that had been tested indicating the devices met the burden of proof to detect and avoid occupied legacy transmissions within the TVWS band. During November 2008 the FCC voted 5-0 to adopt the TVWS band into an unlicensed operating environment. The FCC continues the elaboration of rules, procedures, policies, and issuance of memorandums; but not without controversy or aversion. In February 2009 the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed a lawsuit in a United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit alleging the white-space devices as being potential interferers despite the FCC tests. In February 2010 Wilmington, NC became the TVWS test market through private investments into the community (and with guidance of Spectrum Bridge) supporting the TV band database to ensure interference free operation. During November of 2010 the FCC sent an open invitation, to interested organizations, with the development of a database that supports the TVWS spectrum in determining channel availability for TV broadband devices (TVBD). This was done to maintain device conformity to the available spectrum. There were 10 applicants responding to the request and all 10 received approval from the FCC to move forward with the database development in hopes of making it a competitive environment to produce an exceptional database management system. FAST-FORWARDING THE TIMELINE: YEAR 2012 In May 2012 the NAB dropped the court challenge allowing the use of unlicensed channels between existing TV broadcast channels. This was a major relief for the TVWS proponents. The FCC has approved 2 locations for database and end-user devices to operate. In January 2012 Spectrum Bridge received authorization for Wilmington, NC area and Telcordia Technologies received approval in March 2012 for Nottoway County, VA. As of March 2012, only 2 of the 10 database applicants have received their certification to support TVWS in a commercial atmosphere. The FCC continues refinements of the rules and technical aspects of the TVWS band to ensure all petitions for reconsideration are addressed. In April 2012 the FCC issued an order addressing petitions for reconsideration to the 2010 Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), which addressed fixed antenna height above average terrain (HAAT), out-of-band emissions of the operating frequency, channel 52 protection of the 700 MHz incumbents network, classes of devices (Mode I and Mode II), confidentiality of database information and a clarification that LPTV television translators, Class A television stations and radio astronomy sites coordinates will be included in the certified administrators TVWS databases. The FCC issued a 205 page NPRM Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction (http://www.fcc.gov/document/broadcast-television-spectrum-incentive-auction-nprm) on October 2, 2012 seeking comments by December 21, 2012 with FCC replies due on February 19, How does this impact the commercial roll out of operations with the TVWS spectrum? Based on the attendees of the recent Super-Wi-Fi Summit in Austin, TX (October 2-5, 2012) it 2012 Do Not Copy Without Written Permission Page 7

8 was the opinion of many that FCC approved commercial roll outs are not conceivable until latter portions of 2014 to early Economies of Scale Perspective Economies of scale from a telecom operator s gauge for business case development is defined as a decrease in unit cost of a product or service resulting from large scale operations, as in mass production. Who are the current designers and manufacturers of the TVWS base stations, antennas, and customer premises equipment (CPE)? Today, there is Adaptrum, Inc. 6Harmonics, Carlson Wireless, Neul, and XG Technology, Inc.; each with multiple trial locations completed or currently conducting. The current prices for the customer premise unit (CPE) device has not realized the product cost to substantiate the Return on Invested Capital (ROIC) as being a quick and profitable return. The capital and operating costs are sustainable for the business modeling in regards to the ROIC due to the propagation characteristics of the TVWS band (when fewer access points, to meet the coverage area, produces less capital and operational costs in the areas of tower construction and/or lease requirements, when less middle mile circuits are required and when less maintenance and network monitoring costs can be expected). The balance of the ecosystem lies in the hands of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers consortium. In order to get chip sets into mass production for equipment manufacturers to drive the cost down to an appreciable level for CPE devices - a standard for the TVWS devices to operate in a Wireless Regional Area Networks topology is required. Currently in development is the b standard (http://www.ieee802.org/22/), which is scheduled for release to the review committee (RevCom) in July It is evident the standards are on track and cohesive to the technical rules established by the FCC. One could say the start of a national ecosystem for the TVWS band is contingent upon the recent FCC NPRM release on October 2, 2012 followed by the results of the FCC comments to the expected petitioners with a completion date on February 19, One question that comes to mind is, Can the current design and manufacturing firms and entrepreneurs hold out until the inevitable auction and/or channel repacking period? Based on readings of FCC commissioner Ajit Pai s statement to the NPRM-Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction it is his outlook the auction proceedings will commence in the mid-2014 time frame. Is the Picture Becoming Clearer? If all of the events since the 2007 timeframe were viewed up until October 2012 with the release of the NPRM-Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction, the fine tuning of the technical requirements, TVWS database criteria, equipment manufactures equipment performances through field trials, of business models indicating significant cost savings, and the IEEE b standard being established to set the ecosystem stage the picture was becoming clearer. Now with the recent FCC NPRM-Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction the picture will require constant fine tuning until the completion of the auction/channel repacking era. The fine 2012 Do Not Copy Without Written Permission Page 8

9 tuning process could extend into late The auction/channel repacking appears to be the final saga, so perhaps the TVWS proponents will have a picture that exists with a digital contour; fine tuning free. Mark Messer serves as a Technical Solutions Manager for Connected Nation s Engineering & Technical Services Division. He works with each of the state's broadband providers to gather the vital data needed to create detailed maps of broadband coverage and to promote broadband access, adoption, and use in all areas of the state. In collaboration with the Ohio Broadband Task Force, Connect Ohio is working to bring the benefits of universal broadband to the state. Technology, especially widespread access, adoption, and use of broadband, improves all areas of life. Connect Ohio invites you to join us in changing communities and lives across Ohio. We invite you to visit us at Do Not Copy Without Written Permission Page 9

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