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Industry News

White Space Consumer Devices Expected to Enter the Market in Five Years

October 7, 2011
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Cambridge Consultants has released a report discussing the foremost business opportunities in wireless technologies enabled by White Space frequencies, predicting the development of the first White Space consumer devices in the next five years. The report, entitled "White Space Radio: High Street Hit or Left In the Lab?" is the culmination of a White Space workshop hosted by Cambridge Consultants and brings together experts from across the wireless and broadcast industries, including representatives from Nokia, Samsung, BBC, BSkyB, Neul and CSR.

Consensus views the use of White Space radio as an inevitability, addressing a critical need for redressing methods of spectrum usage and opening up new possibilities for wireless devices. Much discussion of White Space to date has focused on the potential for helping meet rapidly increasing demand for mobile data on smartphones. However, the report emphasizes that White Space technology has the potential to provide for a far broader range of applications and presents a solution for the "always on" society.

Deemed the "White Space economy," new business opportunities for a range of industries suggests that initial market opportunities will emerge as a series of smaller, niche applications. They would minimize dependency on multiple parties and require lower investment. In terms of revenue generation, White Space technologies could see returns both through direct data delivery or indirect revenue streams, such as advertising. Data revenue may suit certain geographies for applications, such as rural broadband, whereas advertising could be more suitable for applications like local content broadcasting.

Areas of opportunity:

Micro or localized wireless Internet service providers (WISP)
There is great potential for businesses (from supermarkets to local government, for example) operating in more remote areas to supply Internet services and advertising to the local surrounding area. Delivery of personalized and location-based services to very local clientele, for a very modest investment by the supplier, is an attractive new business model and the report speculates that delivery could cost as little as one tenth of the cost of copper.

Localized broadcasting
For broadcasters, there is now interest in using White Space for interactive "back-channel" applications and the delivery of highly localized content and advertising.

The "Internet of Things"
Encompassing areas, such as M2M, smart metering and applications that require connectivity over a long-range but low data rate, White Space stands out as an enabler of the "Internet of Things." White Space is especially appropriate, first because the method for connecting can be optimized to meet the need for longer range and lower bit rate. Second, the data transferred is low rate and, in some instances, very infrequent and, for some applications, the majority of data can be transferred at a time when it is less likely to cause interference.

Cambridge Consultants predicts that we will see enterprise White Space devices developed by the end of 2011, and consumer devices entering the market in five years. "It is important to view White Space as a platform that a multitude of technologies can use, presenting incredible potential for application far beyond simply supplementing traditional cellular networks. One of the main difficulties is identifying which vertical market will see significant headway first. Technology is being developed, but this is still largely hidden from public view and further demonstration of both the technology and specific market application is needed before significant investment is forthcoming," commented Fraser Edwards, Head of Radio Frequency Systems at Cambridge Consultants.

"A priority now should be establishing standards to allow for common platforms, economies of scale and large scale uptake. Without standards, White Space could be a footnote, but effectively marshalled White Space has the potential to deliver even greater innovation and new services that we have seen in previously unlicensed spectrum, such as WiFi and Bluetooth."

Recent Articles by Dan Massé, Associate Technical Editor

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