ABB Wireless

Friday, September 24, 2010

What Will FCC White Space Ruling Really Mean for the Smart Grid?

Hard to have missed the news about yesterday’s ruling by the FCC on expanding white space spectrum for unlicensed use. On the surface it sounds like a clear win for utilities as it will provide them with more choices – how can you go wrong with more choices, right?

Before getting too excited about the ruling, it makes sense to take a closer look at both promise and reality of what it might mean in practice. The good…eventually, white spaces should be able to provide for additional connectivity in lightly populated areas. The not-so-good…there will continue to be a lack of availability of white space spectrum in urban and suburban areas – where 80+% of electricity users actually reside. Standards for this spectrum still have a long ways to go prior to adoption.

Also consider that the FCC announced they are taking steps to reserve two UHF channels for unlicensed microphones and other low power auxiliary service devices in all areas of the country. If this is the case, its quite possible there may be no free white space channels available in Silicon Valley…and many other markets.

So bottom line -- white space technology is well suited to some smart grid applications and geographies, but like any wireless technology, it isn't perfect for everything and likely won’t be available for use in many markets.

What direction will Tropos follow? Tropos is developing white space radios to extend our line of multi-radio products. We believe it simply makes good sense to offer the utilities deploying their Smart Grid a wide range of multi-radio, multi-band, licensed and unlicensed spectrum products – let the customer decide what they want.