White Spaces: The Slow Broadband Revolution
The rural ISP facilitating the first extensive independent White Spaces trial in the U.S. isn't going to break any mobile speed records with its tests in California's rugged Gold Country.
That isn't really the point though, Cal.Net CTO Ken Garnett tells Light Reading Mobile.
"We're offering no more than 3 Mbit/s, which is not what most people think of as high-speed broadband," he says of the trials, which started this April. (See California Beaming: White Spaces in Gold County.)
Nonetheless, Garnett claims the service provider has "many very happy customers" in the trial. This is because the people in the land of rolling hills, trails and the high country live in places where it is hard for traditional wired or line-of-sight wireless broadband services to reach.
"TV White Spaces is... for people who can't get line-of-sight," notes Garnett, so an Internet connection offering speeds in the region of 3G wireless services are a godsend to people that presently get connected via dial-up or patchy satellite services. The service provider has previously said that more than 59,000 residents in the area had little or no access to quality Internet connectivity.
TV White Spaces makes use of vacant broadcast TV spectrum to provide wireless connectivity for fixed connections and portable devices. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been establishing a database of vacant TV channel airwaves that could be used for wireless instead. This becomes particularly relevant in more rural areas as they are more likely to have vacant broadcast TV spectrum and yet be under-served with broadband connectivity. (See Mommy, What's a White Space?.)
Cal.net is using White Spaces equipment from Carlson Wireless Technologies, Inc. for the tests. The pair were granted a "Special Temporary Authority" from the FCC to start what they have called "the world's first large-scale deployment of commercial TVWS products." The project has multiple transmission sites beaming signals to several hundred subscribers in El Dorado County.
"We're basically in testing mode right now," Garnett says of the initial months of transmissions. "There's been plenty of opportunity to test out the edge conditions."
In this scenario, that means finding out how many trees the non-line-of-sight signal can go through and what signal-to-noise ratio is acceptable to provide a decent connection.
Quite when the trial can actually move ahead into a commercial service is down to the FCC and Carlson in the end, Garnett notes. He expects, however, that the tests will become a real tangible offering at a reasonably rapid clip.
"I'm confident we'll have it up live by the end of the year." he tells LR Mobile.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile