TVWS Pilot in Berlin

The latest in a line of TV white space pilots recently announced, this time in Germany. This is a little surprising given the hitherto cautious attitude of German regulators. The "Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg" (MABB), which is the regional regulatory authority for broadcasting (and other media) , has issued a call for interest in conducting pilot experiments for public use of Wi-Fi in TV bands in the Berlin-Brandenburg area.

MABB has had a track record as the most progressive of the German regional regulators – and was the first to switch over to digital TV broadcasting (2003/2004) to free up spectrum for mobile broadband. Now given the relatively low penetration of DTT and its lack of appeal to commercial broadcasters, because of the relatively high distribution costs, German Government/ Regulators are contemplating clearing DTT from the UHF bands entirely.

This would appear to be leaping ahead of the apparent trends for a gradual roll-down of mobile broadband into UHF. In Europe, the decision to clear the 800 MHz band came first and now discussions are underway around clearing the 700 MHz band. So if Germany cleared DTT out entirely it would surely be ahead of the game. However there is a question about what technology might be available to use the freed up spectrum. LTE has been widely deployed in 700 MHz and more recently in 800 MHz, but it’s not clear how quickly support would appear for lower frequencies. This is a much harder challenge in handsets, which already have to support up to around 40 LTE band variations.

Enter the TV White Spaces technology, which is designed from the start to operate across the 470-790 MHz range (and at VHF frequencies too, in some cases). Using a geolocation database to point the white space devices to available channels, it would be possible for the Berlin authorities to deliver significant Wi-Fi capacity in this band, complementing the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands which seem to be becoming congested in dense urban areas.