When the white-space television spectrum opened up worldwide, much hype centered around how it could be reused. For example, that spectrum could bring broadband wireless access (BWA) to underserved areas. Now, that very endeavor can be achieved with the new white-space prototypes from the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), Hitachi Kokusai Electric, Inc., and ISB Corp. These prototypes are based on the IEEE 802.22 standard, which was created to bring TV White Spaces (TVWS) BWA to regional areas where it is most needed—and where the TV spectrum is least used. In addition to providing BWA to underserved and unserved regional areas around the world, these prototypes can provide reliable backup broadband communications in emergency situations.

Specifically, NICT and Hitachi Kokusai Electric have developed the first prototype devices for base-station (BS) and consumer-premise-equipment (CPE) applications that verify the physical layer (PHY) and medium-access-control (MAC) layer design based on IEEE 802.22. The PHY part developed by Hitachi Kokusai Electric allows the devices to use vacant TV bands in the TVWS spectrum from 470 to 710 MHz. For its part, the MAC layer part developed by NICT provides a medium-access method based on point-to-multipoint access while supporting different quality-of-service (QoS) levels. It also supports cognitive capabilities of interference estimation, geo-location, and white-space data base (WSDB) access over Internet Protocol (IP).

The prototypes are rounded out by the WSDB from ISB Corp. It avoids interference to incumbent TV broadcasters by automatically selecting a non-interfering TV band. The three firms plan to continue to work together to develop technologies based on the IEEE 802.22 standard. They also will work closely with the WhiteSpace Alliance (WSA) to provide products for worldwide markets.

Meanwhile, machine-to-machine (M2M) applications also are gaining ground in the white-spaces race. The Weightless Special Interest Group (SIG) recently won the Wireless Innovation Forum Technology of the Year 2012 for its global machine communications standard, dubbed Weightless. This award was announced at the Wireless Innovation Forum Conference on Communications Technologies and Software Defined Radio (SDR - WInnComm 2013), which was held this past January in Washington, DC.

Weightless is a proprietary, royalty-free, open standard for wireless M2M communications that uses TVWS spectrum. It provides time-division-duplexing (TDD) operation with a wide range of provided data rates and range options, depending on the application and operating environment. The Weightless standard was designed to minimize cost and power consumption. It features a chipset cost of less than $2(US), which provides a range of six miles and a battery life of 10 years.