Near-space wireless provider Space Data and the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) last week announced an agreement to make 2 MHz of nationwide 900 MHz NPCS spectrum available to EWA members and customers.

Best known for its weather balloon–powered SkySite solutions that provide 125,000 square miles per site, Space Data also is the largest holder of NPCS 900 MHz spectrum licenses in the United States. While the Space Data solution makes economic sense in rural areas, the capacity requirements in urban communities dictate that a terrestrial multi-site towers are better equipped to provide the coverage needed, said Space Data Chairman and CEO Jerry Knoblach.

“In certain areas of the country … like New York City, it doesn’t really make sense to cover it from the sky. The spectrum is really valuable in New York, but it’s probably more valuable for towers than for SkySite,” Knoblach said. “There are certain areas where we have what we would consider to be excess spectrum that we don’t need for our SkySite business plans that we want offer up to enterprises for their critical applications.”

With this in mind, Space Data will work with EWA to make this “excess” spectrum available to operators by adding it to EWA’s database. The licensed 900 MHz spectrum is suitable for a variety of uses, including machine-to-machine, push-to-talk and digital voice technologies, as well as broadband communications. Knoblach said he has received inquiries from power utilities interested in leveraging licensed spectrum for their development of smart-grid applications. These utilities like the idea that the spectrum is licensed — reducing the likelihood of interference and enabling greater power output — and that is adjacent to the unlicensed 900 MHz band, where many smart-grid services currently are located, he said.

“It’s really easy for them to take the same radio and change the software to make it work in the licensed band — make it stop hopping [in the unlicensed band] and move over a little bit,” Knoblach said. “They can keep largely their same investment and same radios.”

Knoblach said Space Data was attracted to EWA because of the organzation’s focus on providing total solutions to enterprises, not just access to spectrum.

EWA President and CEO Mark Crosby said he believes Space Data’s 900 MHz spectrum will be attractive to enterprises.

“I think it’s a good marriage,” Crosby said. “I know it’s good for EWA, and I hope EWA will be good for Space Data.”