Geolocation – the definitive answer to White Space usage ?

The Ofcom (UK regulator) consultation report on “Implementing Geolocation” on TV White Spaces regulatory issues, was released this week. It has been pretty clear for a while that “classic” cognitive radio, i.e. using detection of TV-transmitters is not going to provide any reasonable balance between white space utilization and adequate protection for the primary users (TV viewers). Results basically show that (in realistic scenarios) when low interference probabilities are to be achieved, the utilization of spectrum (i.e. the “amount of usable white space” ) basically goes to zero.

So something more is needed and geolocation is the way regulators and Ofcom in particular are going. A model as in the figure to the left has been proposed where the White Space Devices have to query a data base to determine if they are to be allowed to transmit. Stating the it location, the response will contain information about if and for how long the channel can be used, what power level can be used and if additional sensing is to be required (and at what threshold level).

Will this work? Certainly it will, but the question is still how well. The design of the algorithms to determine query response is still an open, and non-trivial issue. By adding more information, one should, at least in the ideal case, be able to make a better decision than with sensing only. It is of course easy to provide better protection for the primaries, but will this make us too cautious, not exploiting all spectrum opportunities. Could such combined schemes also achieve a significantly higher spectrum utilization for a given interference probability? The latter is not obvious and definitely not necesserily true for any geolocation scheme. One important problem is that geographic proximity/distance is not always a very good predictor of signal/interference levels. In wide area wireless systems (with unobstructed propagation) it may well work fine, but in dense urban/indoor environments, where the deployment of WSDs is most likely, such a prediction does not work very well. Adjacent channel interference problems indoor when the WSD is close to a TV set are other issues. In my mind we have a couple of really interesting open research questions:

  • How large improvements in spectrum utilization can we achieve ? Is it actually worth while adding the increased complexity of geolocation ?
  • What should the algorithms to most effectively “fuse” the signal detection and geographical location ?

Or has anyone the definitive answer ?

Jens Zander

About Jens Zander

Professor Jens Zander is professor in Radio Communication Systems at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. He has been among the few in Swedens Ny Teknik magazine's annual list of influential people in ICT that have been given the epithet “Mobile Guru”. He is one of the leading researchers in mobile communication and is the Scientific director of the industry/academia collaboration center Wireless@KTH. His research group focuses on three main areas – the efficient and scalable use of the radio frequency spectrum, economic aspects of mobile systems and application and energy efficiency in future wireless infrastructures.
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