TV White Space: a work in progress

Comprehensive test of wireless Internet technology identifies barriers to scaled deployment
 An absence of standards-based products is one impediment to broader deployment.
Stewart Schley

Detailed findings from a trial deployment of technologies used to provision high-speed Internet access over license-exempt airwaves are now available from the University of New Hampshire Broadband Center of Excellence.

Download Assessing TVWS for Rural Broadband Access here (48 pages).

The trial involves so-called TV White Spaces (TVWS), the unused frequencies tucked into RF spectrum that originally was reserved for television broadcasters. In and around Durham, N.H., UNH BCoE has conducted comprehensive evaluations of signal strength, propagation, data rate performance and other key metrics in an attempt to determine the real-world potential for TVWS as a solution to fill in broadband network coverage gaps.

Roughly 6 percent of U.S. households today are out of the reach of wireline broadband networks, leaving millions of Americans without access to robust fixed broadband capabilities.

UNH BCoE determined that TVWS technology exhibits promise for helping to solve broadband coverage inadequacies, but falls short on several measures related to ease of installation and suitability for real-world use today.

“TVWS equipment and frequencies have the potential to deliver broadband access service, but the current generation of equipment and planning tools are insufficient to support immediate, large-scale deployment,” the report concluded. Among shortcomings UNH BCoE identified are:

  • Absence of standards-based products
  • Expensive client devices
  • Installation challenges
  • Limited or uneven performance
  • Susceptibility to interference
  • Network management challenges

Despite these challenges, UNH BCoE’s trial suggests potential for TVWS to emerge as a part of the national broadband delivery infrastructure. “With sufficient motivation and investment by public and private resources, an industry can be built around TVWS broadband access,” the report states.