IEEE publishes standard for networks using “white spaces”

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) has just published the 802.22 standard, a new network implementation of broadcast “white spaces” designed to provide broadband access to wide regional areas that include rural communities.

This new standard for Wireless Regional Area Networks (WRANs) takes advantage of the favorable transmission characteristics of the VHF and UHF TV bands to provide broadband wireless access over a large area up to 100km from the transmitter. Each WRAN will deliver up to 22Mb/s per channel without interfering with reception of existing TV broadcast stations, using the white spaces between the occupied TV channels.

This technology is especially useful for serving less densely populated areas, such as rural areas and developing countries, where most vacant TV channels can be found.

IEEE 802.22 incorporates advanced cognitive radio capabilities, including dynamic spectrum access, incumbent database access, accurate geolocation techniques, spectrum sensing, regulatory domain dependent policies, spectrum etiquette and coexistence for optimal use of the available spectrum.

The IEEE 802.22 Working Group began its work soon after the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry on unlicensed operation in the TV broadcast bands.

Simultaneous with the IEEE announcement, a group of proponents of the white spaces initiative petitioned Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and ranking member Henry Waxman, asking that they do all that is possible to protect and expand the availability of unlicensed spectrum now and in the future in the television bands.

“Failing to provide adequate unlicensed spectrum below 1GHz will leave American consumers and innovators without the spectrum resources they need for Super WiFi,” the group wrote. “Higher-frequency spectrum and spectrum burdened with indoor-only restrictions are simply inadequate.”

With the new standard now approved, hardware manufacturers have a blueprint to begin designing and building products that can use the upcoming wireless networks. Unlike the frequencies used by cellular network operators, the white spaces use unlicensed spectrum, so a wide range of compatible devices are expected from many companies. This would make it easier and cheaper for those in remote areas to gain faster Internet access.