It’s very rare for me to find noteworthy events in the Canadian Telco industry, but last week’s decision on whitespace by Industry Canada was one of those rare occasions. The potential for whitespace as a major industry disruptor is huge. An example to get things in perspective is the potential for whitespace in M2M communications. With the inherent high latency and low traffic volumes of M2M, combined with the ease of doing things in software today, the costs of building out a national M2M network should be small fraction of a traditional cellular network, but, this is sadly not the case due to the costs of spectrum licensing. Whitespace, on the other hand, is free spectrum and perfectly suited for M2M use cases, and this is why I think one of the first changes we will see with its availability is the current stock of M2M MVNOs and future application providers building their own networks.
Here is a quick summary of the decision letter:
Television White Space Device Recommendations
During the consultation phase of the decision-making process, Industry Canada sought input from television broadcasters and other industry professionals. Support for TVWS devices was universal, with a majority believing that the devices would promote the development of cheap, efficient wireless broadband Internet services, particularly in rural areas, and that the economic benefits were potentially large. A minority of respondents felt that waiting and watching the development of such technology in other countries would be more appropriate. Industry Canada recommends that repurposing the proposed frequency bands for TVWS devices proceeds immediately. It is expected that the introduction of these devices will improve management of the broadcast spectrum while reducing spectrum shortages and improving Internet access. Industry Canada will establish rules for introducing these devices, which will not be subject to licensing. They will work on a no interference, no protection basis.
Preventing Unwanted Interference with Nearby Devices
In order to prevent unwanted interference with nearby devices, the development of spectrum sensors, which detect interference and eliminate it, has been proposed. In the meantime, Industry Canada will focus on the development of databases of local available frequencies that can be safely used. An unlimited number of database administrators will be established. Anyone meeting the requirements and satisfying the relevant agreements will be appointed. Most respondents wanted Industry Canada to have strong regulatory powers over TVWS devices, and steer away from indirect regulation via a certification process. Database administrators will be required to host the databases inside Canada, and Industry Canada will not regulate the fees they impose.
Security Concerns, Definitions, and Operating Channels
During the consultation process, respondents expressed a desire to develop security and privacy measures that are incorporated into the database, which Industry Canada agreed to. The consultation created a series of definitions for TVWS devices and services. It was decided to harmonize the definitions with those developed in the U.S. It was also decided to harmonize operating channels with those set aside for the devices in the U.S., and to forbid broadcast on channel 37, which is used for astronomical and medical devices. Debate occurred as to whether Canada should follow the U.S. approach to interference protection or the U.K. approach. The U.S. uses regulations that mandate minimum distances separating devices. The U.K. uses devices that adjust their own power levels as database information changes. The U.K. model allows the system to stay compliant no matter how things change, but requires much more regulation and computing power. Industry Canada decided that the U.K. approach was too complex and costly to implement across Canada, but will keep an eye on developments in the U.K.. Future changes could bring about a reconsideration of the issue.
Emissions Masking and Broadcast Protection
Most consultation respondents wanted technical parameters for the devices to be harmonized with the parameters used in the U.S. Broadcasters wanted TVWS devices to be limited to 1 watt of power, maximum. Discussion was held on whether to use the U.S. or U.K. system of masking out-of-band emissions. The U.S. specifies a fixed mask. The U.K. utilizes an adaptable approach. Industry Canada also decided to adopt U.S. standards for masking out-of-band emissions, but will consider adopting the U.K. system in the future. Industry Canada requires Canadian devices to protect U.S. broadcasting operations, using the same criteria as are used in Canada.
RRBS and LPA Devices
Remote rural broadband services are inspected by Industry Canada on technical grounds before licenses are granted. RRBS devices use more power than TVWS devices. It was proposed that the TVWS database be expanded to include RRBS devices, and a phase out of RRBS devices in favor of TVWS devices was also proposed. Industry Canada decided to continue licensing RRBS devices. Respondents also agreed that a change to the current system governing low-powered apparatus is needed. They agreed that LPA devices, such a wireless microphones, should no longer require licenses. Instead, they would operate on a no interference, no protection basis. Database administrators will not be allowed to charge fees for LPA devices. Industry Canada agreed with these recommendations.
The Next Steps
After discussion on the relative merits of changing the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations,proponents suggested allocating frequencies for new wireless services. Industry Canada decided not to make any changes. However, they have decided to develop a new Radio Standard Specification for certifying TVWS devices, as well as a procedure and agreement for becoming a database administrator. Before beginning to compile the database, they will create a document describing the requirements of the database. In producing the necessary standards and regulations, Industry Canada will work in conjunction with stakeholders.