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Billion-dollar white spaces goldmine at risk, if key challenges are ignored

Press Release   •   Jul 16, 2012 17:14 BST

The use of white space spectrum for broadband could generate additional revenue of $765m for the wireless component industry by 2017. However, this is contingent on strong regulatory decisions being made in the next two years, and the industry taking a harmonized view of the business model. Without those factors, the revenue potential could be halved, according to a new study.

The underused white spaces within the TV spectrum band are seen by regulators and web players as an important source of additional, licence-exempt capacity for wireless services. According to a newreport, jointly produced by Real Wireless and Rethink Technology Research, many applications arebeing trialled, but the main revenue generators will be in machine-to-machine and broadbandaccess segments. By 2017, M2M will be the dominant market, overtaking broadband in terms ofdevice component sales and accounting for 52% of the total.

However, these two key applications often make conflicting demands on the spectrum and may notbe able to coexist happily. Difficult decisions will need to be made on how to protect quality ofservice for anchor users, while maintaining the open nature of the spectrum.

“The chief advantages of the white spaces – the dynamic way in which they are being harnessed,and the low cost of their unlicensed state – can both be reduced or lost by the mechanisms whichcould be put in place to guarantee quality of service, perhaps for one ‘killer app’ which is allowed totake precedence,” said Simon Saunders, Director of Technology for Real Wireless, a member of the UK IT Association.

Interference between the various incumbent and new services in the band is one of the risksassociated with white spaces plan. But there are many other issues which have remained somewhathidden amid the general enthusiasm since the US FCC agreed to open up the white spaces in 2008.

Despite some high profile early trials, and a handful of small deployments in the US, the technologyis still at a very early stage. Business models are not yet agreed, and the ecosystem is immature, withmany influential suppliers expressing support but not yet developing commercial products.

Other risk factors include delays in opening the spectrum round the world; a fragmented regulatoryenvironment; device and chip costs; Should these key challenges not be addressed, the marketcould be worth significantly less in 2017 – as little as $400m, according to the Real Wireless/Rethinkforecast, which is based on extensive interviews with players across the white spaces value chain(component providers, device and equipment makers, standards bodies, operators, internetcompanies, regulators and others). However, a strong commercial framework and ecosystem couldresult in a best case scenario where the sector is worth as much as $1.2bn.

The report is the first to combine detailed technical modelling of the qualities of this spectrum withcommercial analysis and forecasts. As such it provides the most comprehensive analysis available ofthe opportunities for white spaces spectrum, and the challenges which need to be met. It charts theprogress of the technology towards commercialization, especially in the US and UK, and considersthe standards and regulatory environment worldwide in detail.

This report gives sufficient detail to enable investors, technologists, product vendors and regulatorsto determine whether white space devices:

  • Provide a credible and sustainable investment opportunity with sufficient near and mid-term growth opportunity
  • Are supported by commercial momentum and confidence in the ecosystemAre supported by a regulatory framework that is based on thorough and detailed technical and economic analysis
  • Can establish a sustainable product roadmap and plans for vendor relationships and interoperability

Details of the report are available from:

Contact details and info on Real Wireless and RethinkAbout Real WirelessReal Wireless is a leading independent wireless consultancy, based in the UK and workinginternationally for enterprises, vendors, operators and regulators – indeed any organization which isserious about getting the best from wireless to the benefit of their business. We seek to demystifywireless and help our customers get the best from it, by understanding their business needs andusing our deep knowledge of wireless to create an effective wireless strategy, implementation planand management process. We are experts in radio propagation, international spectrum regulation,wireless infrastructures, and much more besides. We have experience working at senior levels invendors, operators, regulators and academia. We have specific experience in LTE, UMTS, HSPA, Wi-Fi, WiMAX, DAB, DTT, GSM, TETRA – and many more.Contact: Simon Saunders, +44 207 117 8514

About Rethink Technology ResearchRethink Technology Research is a research firm and consultancy specializing in business models andtechnologies for mobile and wireless service providers. It carries out extensive surveys about thedeployment plans, and business strategies, of mobile, fixed/mobile and Wi-Fi operators. It alsoworks closely with the vendor community, regulators, standards bodies and investment companiesto monitor the upcoming trends in wireless networks.

Rethink started specializing in advanced mobile technologies in 2002 and has the longest establishedand most in-depth coverage of 4G-specific technology and issues in the industry. The companypublishes news and analysis of mobile broadband issues on a weekly basis in its Wireless Watchproduct, as well as regular research notes to clients and financial analysts. It also has a joint venturewith fellow 4G research firm Maravedis to create a wide range of industry and operator reports.Contact: Caroline Gabriel:, +44 (0)207 403 3292

The UK IT Association (UKITA) was established as the private sector organisation responsible for the development of a credible and thriving IT industry across the United Kingdom. Tracing its roots back to 1999, the name: United Kingdom IT Association (UKITA) was formally adopted in 2006.

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