book-imageMarco Zennaro and Ermanno Pietrosemoli of the Abdus Salaam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP)  have put together a great collection of essays on TV White Spaces with an emphasis on their application in emerging markets.  Entitled “TV White Spaces — A Pragmatic Approach“, it covers both technical and policy issues as well as providing information on real world pilots.

However, an issue as complex as White Spaces spectrum can be a little intimidating and the prospect of an entire book on it might cause those not already engaged in the topic to quail at the prospect of an entire book.  So herewith a brief introduction to the essays which make up the book, which are all standalone pieces in themselves.  The book breaks down into two sections, one on Advocacy and the other on Technology but many of the pieces overlap between the two.  You can read Marco and Ermanno’s introduction to the book here


Geo-Database Management of White Space vs. Open Spectrum
by Robert Horvitz, Open Spectrum Foundation

Robert tells the story of the genesis of spectrum regulation pointing at key historical factors such as its use as a critical communication technology  for ships at sea to the role of international patent regimes.  He points to the establishment of governments as sovereign owners of spectrum and argues that a strict authoritarian approach to spectrum regulation was not inevitable.  He goes on to illustrate the value of unlicensed spectrum and the opportunity for different approaches to spectrum regulation.  In the realm of TV White Spaces spectrum, Robert considers the merits of geo-location database approaches versus a spectrum sensing approach and concludes that a geo-location database approach could delay the development of genuinely smart radios.

Regulatory Issues for TV White Spaces
by Ryszard Strużak and Dariusz Więcek, National Institute of Telecommunications, Poland

The essay provides an excellent insight into the regulatory workings of the ITU and its role in spectrum policy and regulation.  It sets out three key objectives for any spectrum management system: conveying policy goals, apportioning scarcity, and avoiding conflicts, with due regard to social, political, economic, ecological, and other issues.  It covers issues such as the table of frequency allocations, frequency planning, as well as the role of the World Radio Congress.   Moving on to TVWS issues specifically, the authors point out that at the most recent World Radio Congress, the decision was taken to allow TVWS initiatives as long as they do not interfere with existing Radio Regulations.  They go on to outline the three modes of TVWS operation, namely:  spectrum sensing, pilot beacons, geo-databases.

Spectrum and Development
by Steve Song, Network Startup Resource Center, USA

In this piece, I attempt to contextualise spectrum management and regulation issues within the broader realm of information and communication technologies for development (ICTD).  I delve into the reasons why taking on spectrum regulation as a development policy issue is so important and set out some reasons why it may not have received the attention it deserves in ICTD debates to date.

New cognitive radio technologies, white spaces and the digital dividend in the Brazilian context
by Carlos A. Afonso, Instituto Nupef, Brazil

Carlos paints a detailed picture of the wireless environment in Brazil, making an eloquent case for dynamic spectrum regulation in his country.  He is specifically concerned that concerned that the voice of the under-served is being drowned out by mobile network operators who argue that mobile spectrum is the only way to provide access to under-served areas.

Policy-Based Radios
by Timothy X Brown, University of Colorado, USA and Carnegie Mellon University, Rwanda, and Jon M. Peha, Carnegie Mellon University, USA

In this essay, Timothy Brown and Jon Peha look specifically at the case of Rwanda.  They provide a detailed explanation and analysis of the different approaches policy-based radio access that are available to regulators.  It is worth pointing out that TVWS systems operate under a variety of names depending on how inclusive the authors are trying to be.  Policy-based radios refer to any wireless systems that can change its behaviour (frequency, power, etc) based on a defined set of policies.  TVWS systems fall squarely under this definition.  The authors outline a range of possible approaches, not only dynamic access via regulators but also via spectrum holders through dynamic spectrum leases on unused spectrum by primary holders.

TV White Spaces: Managing Spaces or Better Managing Inefficiencies?
by Cristian Gomez, International Telecommunications Union

Christian’s essay was originally developed as a background paper for the ITU Global Symposium for Regulators (2013).  As such it provides an excellent general overview of TVWS technical and policy issues from an ITU perspective.  This piece is a great general background on TVWS issues albeit with a slightly conservative perspective that is not entirely surprising given the context of the document.

The role of TV White Spaces and Dynamic Spectrum in helping to improve Internet access in Africa and other Developing Regions
by Mike Jensen, Association for Progressive Communications

Mike does an excellent job in this paper of explaining the overall ecosystem of connectivity in developing countries including fibre, public access, etc.  He unpacks the role of connectivity and explains why access for the poor is increasingly important.


White Space Broadband on the Isle of Bute, Scotland
by David Crawford, University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom

David provides a great technical overview of the Isle of Bute White Space Trial.  One of the earliest TVWS trials, it has provided key insights into the viability of TVWS as well as providing inspiration for other pilots.

Cognitive Radio and Africa
by Linda E. Doyle, University of Dublin, Ireland

In this piece, Linda explores the emerging technological paradigm of cognitive radio and looks at it applicability in the African context.  Like “policy-based radios”, “cognitive radio” is another umbrella term that is used to refer to dynamic spectrum approaches.

The Weightless Standard
by Alan Woolhouse, Weightless, United Kingdom

UK company Neul were an early champion of TVWS spectrum but with a focus on the Internet of Things (IoT).  With that in mind, they developed the Weightless Standards for IoT devices operating in TVWS spectrum.  Weightless is now an open industry standard.  This article by Alan Woolhouse explains its genesis.

Overview of White Space Standards
by Ermanno Pietrosemoli, The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Italy

The early days of any new wireless technology are often confusing as various technical standards vie for dominance in how a technology is applied.  TVWS technology is no exception.  In this essay, Ermanno gives an excellent overview of the IEEE standards that have grown around TVWS technology.

Green Power for Rural Communications
by Sebastian Büttrich, Network Startup Resource Center, USA and IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark

The potential that TVWS technology represents for affordable rural access is highlighted in various parts of this book but wireless technologies must also have power to operate and sustainable power options can sometimes be glossed over in thinking through rural connectivity solutions.  In this essay, Sebastian gives a detailed analysis of the viability and application of solar power for rural connectivity.

Low Cost Spectrum Measurements
by Marco Zennaro and Andrés Arcia-Moret

One of the greatest challenges in dealing with spectrum policy and regulation is actually knowledge what spectrum is genuinely in use.  ICTP have developed low-cost tools for carrying out spectrum monitoring and in this essay Marco and Andrés explain the rationale, genesis and application of this tools.


Posted by Steve Song

@stevesong local telco policy activist. social entrepreneur. founder of @villagetelco #africa #telecoms #opensource #privacy #wireless #spectrum #data