TV White Space, the Next Big Thing?

Published on June 17, 2013

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Some are suggesting that, with some “standards” for testing and certification, TV white space can enjoy the same type of success as Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi®. Standards and standards bodies certainly have played a role in the success of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but adoption of the technologies by major players in certain markets was equally or more important.

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) was founded in 1998 to oversee the development of Bluetooth standards and the licensing of Bluetooth technologies and trademarks to manufacturers.  The Bluetooth SIG manages the Bluetooth Qualification program, which is a required certification process for any product using Bluetooth wireless technology. The test and certification standards set forth by the Bluetooth SIG have been key factors that played into its global adoption and success.

Bluetooth commercial success really started when mobile phones with Bluetooth technology came into market in 2000. This opened up the Bluetooth headset, headphone, speakerphone and car kit markets. Bluetooth was originally designed for commercial applications so the introduction into the consumer market helped the technology to expand.

Two years after ratifying the 802.11 standard in 1997, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) ratified 802.11b, which soon became known as Wi-Fi, thanks to the Wi-Fi Alliance®. The Alliance was founded not just to promote Wi-Fi technology but also to certify Wi-Fi products to certain standards of interoperability. With technology development, market building, and regulatory programs, Wi-Fi Alliance has enabled widespread adoption of Wi-Fi worldwide.  But what really made Wi-Fi an “overnight sensation” was the decision by Intel to bundle a CPU and Wi-Fi under the Centrino® brand.

An article in the June 2013 issue of Incisor Magazine introduces Weightless™, the specification operating in unused TV white space, and explains how testing and certification strategies are beginning to crystallize. The Weightless Special Interest Group (SIG) was recently founded in December 2012 to oversee the creation of formal test, certification and interoperability standards. The article states that such standards will help ensure that Weightless “is delivered to market in an orderly, reliable and confidence-inspiring fashion.”

In order to do this, the Weightless SIG Board is broken up into two groups: the Test Process Group and the Qualification Review Board. The Weightless SIG Test Process Group is responsible for defining processes, producing specifications and managing changes. The Weightless SIG Qualification Review Board is responsible for issuing certificates, monitoring quality, arbitrating appeals, and maintaining databases.

The Weightless SIG still has a long way to go before Weightless becomes a widely adopted wireless technology in the TV whitespace frequency range. In the meantime, the SIG needs to focus on establishing its policy and creating a platform for Weightless test and certification. Will this be enough to ensure the commercial success for Weightless technology? Or does a major player need to embrace Weightless and push for its commercial success?

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