Broadband in a Full Democracy

White space in telecommunications refers to unused frequencies in the radio waves portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

National and international bodies assign differing frequencies for specific uses, and in some cases license the rights to these. This frequency allocation process creates a bandplan which in some cases for technical reasons assigns white space between used bands to avoid interference. In this case, while the frequencies are unused they have been specifically assigned for a purpose.

As well as this technical assignment, there is also unused spectrum which has either never been used, or is becoming free as a result of technical changes. In particular, the planned switchover to digital television may free up large areas between 54MHz and 698MHz. Various proposals including those from the White Spaces Coalition suggest using this bandwidth to provide broadband Internet access. However, these efforts may impact wireless microphones and other technologies that have historically relied on these frequencies.

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Wireless spectrum: FAQs by By Peter Nowak CBC News May 26, 2008 | 3:13 PM ET 

  What is spectrum?

Spectrum is a catch-all term for the radio airwaves that many wireless gizmos use to communicate information. Radios use spectrum, as do the rabbit-ear antennas on older television sets. The CBC, for example, is broadcast free to many parts of Canada using a part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Cellphones, of course, also use it.

Spectrum is divided into different frequencies and measured in units called hertz.

Why is it being sold?

Spectrum is a public resource that is managed by the government through Industry Canada. The government extracts big revenue from selling spectrum licences to cellphone companies, because those licences are limited while demand is high. Canada’s cellphone industry made $12.7 billion in 2006, 95 per cent of which went to the big three providers, Rogers Communications Inc., Bell Canada Inc. and Telus Corp. Other telecommunications providers would like to offer cellphone services but can’t, because they don’t have a spectrum licence.

The licences are for 10 years and can be renewed by owners within two years of their expiration. The auction is expected to earn the government at least $1 billion, but likely a good deal more.

Who currently holds spectrum licences for cellphone services in Canada?

The nation’s big three cellphone providers — Rogers Communications, Bell Canada and Telus — all hold licences. A number of smaller regional companies, including Winnipeg-based Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. and Regina-based SaskTel, also have licences and offer cellphone services.Auction of radio airwaves will influence Canada’s prosperity

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The White Spaces Coalition

The White Spaces Coalition consists of eight large technology companies that plan to deliver high speed broadband internet access beginning in February 2009 to United States consumers via existing ‘white space’ in unused television frequencies between 54-698 MHz (TV Channels 2-51). The coalition expects speeds of 10 Mbyte/s and above, and 50 to 100 Mbyte/s for white space short-range networking.[1] The group includes Microsoft, Google, Dell, HP, Intel, Philips, Earthlink, and Samsung Electro-Mechanics.

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