White Spaces

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

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DanJonesLRMobile 7/25/2013 | 2:51:23 PM
re: White Spaces: The Slow Broadband Revolution Anyone have any sense yet what kind of devices will be supported via White Spaces tech. This is more of a home modem situation. Could it get more portable still?
MordyK 7/25/2013 | 3:14:22 PM
re: White Spaces: The Slow Broadband Revolution Theoretically it should be able to but the size of the equipment and their availability might be an issue.
DanJonesLRMobile 7/25/2013 | 4:36:48 PM
re: White Spaces: The Slow Broadband Revolution Interesting article from MIT Tech Review about White Spaces in US universities:

brookseven 7/25/2013 | 6:26:46 PM
re: White Spaces: The Slow Broadband Revolution This might help Dan...


John Mike 7/25/2013 | 9:14:48 PM
re: White Spaces: The Slow Broadband Revolution KTS Wireless produces the first FCC-certified white space radio on the market, their Agility White Space Radio (AWR). The company offers a Portable (WiFi) Hotspot with a wifi access point and an AWR terminal in a rugged carrying case. In one application, the Portable Hotspot provides field technicians with data connectivity on laptops or smartphones while working in remote, non line-of-sight locations using the White Space spectrum for backhaul.

socalrailroader 7/26/2013 | 10:21:52 AM
re: White Spaces: The Slow Broadband Revolution How will this work in areas like Ukiah and Redwood Valley, CA (Where I live) that are served by a translator?

GeoTel 7/27/2013 | 6:53:44 PM
re: White Spaces: The Slow Broadband Revolution Exciting to see Cal.net is working to provide service to customers/residents who currently can't get broadband. Seems like many providers forget about this much underserved and 'desperate' market.
DanJonesLRMobile 7/29/2013 | 10:48:30 AM
re: White Spaces: The Slow Broadband Revolution I don't know off the top-of-my-head but I can ask Cal.net for you. Stay tuned.
socalrailroader 7/29/2013 | 10:53:24 AM
re: White Spaces: The Slow Broadband Revolution Thank you Dan, I appreciate it! Other than Cable or Satellite, that is the only way to get TV signals in Mendocino County here in rural Northwestern California. There used to be more translators, one in Laytonville (Mendocino Co), one in Lakeport (Lake Co), etc, but the Ukiah/Redwood Valley one is the last one left in Mendocino and Lake Counties, and it's existence is tenuous at best as it depends solely on donations and grants, it's an all volunteer staff that runs it.
davidhoffman 7/30/2013 | 4:49:56 AM
re: White Spaces: The Slow Broadband Revolution This seems to be the proper way to do TVWS ISP operations. Fixed locations for the CPE, dedicated POCs if interference issues arise, and no ad hoc frequency searches or selections to create interference issues. This type of operation compares very favorably with DIY cellular based ISP offerings, like Millenicom's 20 GB or 50 GB plans. It seems to be an excellent value, in some but not all situations, compared to satellite ISPs. My friends who use cellular based Millenicom type offerings, in no DSL areas, would gladly have the unlimited usage of the 3G EVDO Rev A type data transfer rates rather than getting LTE 4G type speeds and caps.
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