LONDON – Fabless chip company CSR plc (Cambridge, England), along with Microsoft and Nokia amongst others, is working on the development of the Weightless standard for television white space radio communications and its acceptance by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and thinks the principle of dynamic spectrum allocation could be extended beyond the television bands.
"We are actively involved in multiple initiatives including Weightless," said Les Smith, a consultant on antennas and propagation working with CSR. "We don't have a chip on our forward roadmap but we've got an engineer looking at a MAC [media access controller] and we are doing some work there," he said.
CSR has an official statement on its position with regard to whether it is going to start making Weightless transceiver ICs, with their characteristic asymmetric reception signal budget.
That statement reads: "CSR is actively involved in most of the standards and related regulatory activity in the wireless industry focused on spectrum sharing in the TV White Spaces, including Weightless, IEEE P802.11af and TD-LTE. CSR is working alongside many organisations and trade bodies to ensure that the Weightless standard is as fully developed as possible when it comes to market, as we do see the applications that the technology will enable in the future as significant."
CSR's high levels of activity but lack of a definite chip roadmap may be due to the fact that official standardization of such radio frequency issues often takes many months, even years. While the U.K. government's regulatory office Ofcom and startup Neul Ltd. (Cambridge, England) have been doing much pioneering of TVWS via licensed trials any Weightless standard will still have to be harmonized with work starting within ETSI's Broadband Radio Access Networks (BRAN) committees, Smith said.
There is also some divergence on what the primary use case should be for additional bandwidth liberated by spectrum sharing. While Neul has emphasized the potential for dedicted machine-to-machine communications many other bodies are interested in TVWS as means of delivering rural broadband at acceptable cost.
Nonetheless there is growing interest in TVWS both within the U.K. and the European Commission and a sense that previous academic work on software-defined radio and cognitive radio could soon be put to work, Smith said. CSR is not alone in this view. Companies such as Microsoft, the BBC, BT Group, Arqiva and Neul are working with CSR in the UK Program Group for Dynamic Spectrum Access (DSA), a body created by UK digital TV association the Digital TV Group (DTG) to promote spectrum sharing enabled by appropriate standards and the use of cognitive radio techniques.
The creation of the body was announced by Ed Vaizey M.P., a U.K. politician, as he opened a research institute called the Centre for White Space Communications at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.
Jim Beveridge, senior director of Microsoft's technology policy group, welcomed the initiative, saying: "We believe tapping unused spectrum will help support innovation in the UK's tech sector and extend the broadband access needed by rural and unserved communities not only in the UK but globally and essentially transform the local economies and create opportunities for ambitious SMEs."