Researchers study best use of 'whitespace' spectrum

Sep 11, 2012 by Mark Riechers

(Phys.org)—The demand for faster, more mobile Internet access for smartphones, tablets and laptops does more than strain the available space we have in our pockets and bags. There's a finite amount of wireless spectrum available to those gadgets as well.

However, in November 2008, the changed its regulation to allow unlicensed devices to use TV "whitespace" spectrum—unused frequencies primarily designated for —as long as they do not interfere with incumbent and other licensed users such as wireless microphones.

Researchers, including Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Parmesh Ramanathan, are now looking for the best way to utilize whitespace to increase the data rates of wireless communication.

The 180 megahertz offers the best potential for improved wireless communication, since it provides nearly five times the bandwidth of conventional Wi-Fi, with increased range to boot. " propagate through walls and so on much better than other bands," says Ramanathan. "The higher the frequency, the less they propagate."

But tapping into unused spectrum requires two things: reliable sensing to determine which parts of the airwaves are not being used at any given time; and spectrum-agile radios inside of devices that can reliably determine and switch to the clearest parts of the band for wireless communication.

Ramanathan and Associate Professor Suman Banerjee are refining that . They pair signal sensing with precise and easy-to-tune software radios as they work toward networks that eventually could provide higher speeds to more users over wider than traditional wireless networks could ever provide. "Eventually, people will be replacing traditional Wi-Fi with these kinds of radios," says Ramanathan.

He believes technology that makes more innovative use of spectra is the future of wireless communications. "This is part of a change of how spectrum is going to work," says Ramanathan.

Better technology for sensing spectrum use will enable licensed spectrum owners to buy and sell them in short time scales.

For instance, consider the frequent dropped calls that occur when a football stadium is full of texting, tweeting fans. Ramanathan suggests that someday, cellular service providers could lease extra spectrum to improve communication during game day, invisibly adapting their network to better handle the influx of mobile device use. Moreover, police and security organizations could lease that same spectrum once the game is over, giving them more reliable communications among officers on the ground should an emergency occur.

Until the hardware catches up to the regulatory possibilities, these are all hypothetical scenarios. "Now that the FCC allows for these types of things, it becomes mostly a technological challenge to find the right solutions," says Ramanathan.

Explore further: Verizon launches rewards program with tracking

Related Stories

FCC opens up unused TV signals for broadband

Sep 23, 2010

(AP) -- The Federal Communications Commission is opening up unused airwaves between television channels for wireless broadband networks that will be more powerful and can reach farther than today's Wi-Fi hotspots.

FCC seeking more spectrum for wireless broadband

Feb 24, 2010

(AP) -- Federal regulators are hoping to find more wireless spectrum for mobile broadband services by reallocating some airwaves now in the hands of television broadcasters and other users.

New Wi-Fi Technology Using White Spaces

Aug 20, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A wireless internet network that uses portions of the old analog TV spectrum may one day become a reality. The plans for a computer network that uses "white spaces," which are empty fragments ...

North Carolina becomes home of White Spaces network

Jan 29, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- America’s first commercial “TV White Spaces Network” was launched this week in Wilmington, New Hanover County, North Carolina. Wilmington, as the first U.S. city to shift from ...

Recommended for you

Verizon launches rewards program with tracking

Jul 21, 2014

Verizon Wireless is launching a nationwide loyalty program this week for its 100-million-plus subscribers. There's a twist, though: To earn points for every dollar spent, subscribers must consent to have their movements tracked ...

Verizon boosts FiOS uploads to match downloads

Jul 21, 2014

Verizon is boosting the upload speeds of nearly all its FiOS connections to match the download speeds, vastly shortening the time it takes for subscribers to send videos and back up their files online.

The goTenna device pitch is No Service, No Problem

Jul 18, 2014

In the new age of Internet-based crowdfunding with special price offers, where startup teams try to push their product closer and closer to the gate of entry, goTenna's campaign offers a most attractive pitch. ...

Maths can make the internet 5-10 times faster

Jul 17, 2014

Mathematical equations can make Internet communication via computer, mobile phone or satellite many times faster and more secure than today. Results with software developed by researchers from Aalborg University ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sonhouse
not rated yet Sep 11, 2012
I just hope these new systems don't interfere with existing amateur radio operations, while not sounding an important activity, they are the ones you go to for emergency communications and that could be compromised if the technology was not handled right.
alfie_null
not rated yet Sep 12, 2012
I like the idea of leasing. It would make spectrum use more efficient than the fixed, unevenly used, allocations we have today.

Expecting white space bands to help relieve the "bandwidth" need is unrealistic. The propagation characteristics of those frequencies work against it in typical densely populated areas like cities.

Regarding ham radio (I am a ham): "emergency use" is old and a little tired. Not that it's not valid, but I wish there were more reasons to make ham radio an important use of its band allocations.

FCC regulations regarding non-commercial use and permitted modulation techniques hamper the use of ham radio in experimenting with new radio-related technology. I'd argue that rather than non-commercial, that it simply be the operator must make no money.