Spectrum Bridge, in conjunction with partner TV Band Service, announced its second white-spaces network in the U.S., and this time the deployment is designed to prove that white-spaces networks are not just for rural areas.

The city of Wilmington and the county of New Hanover in North Carolina are the second areas of the country to launch a white-spaces network with an experimental license, which is valid for 18 months. In October, the small town of Claudville, Va., became the country's first white-space deployment venue.
It has been thought that white-space networks may work best in rural areas, given the fact that the spectrum lies in those unused pieces of TV spectrum where interference with surrounding signals such as TV broadcasts is certain unless the devices can operate to prevent interference. Typically, rural areas have fewer TV broadcasters, so there is more spectrum to use and less chance of interference.

The FCC approved TV white-spaces spectrum for use in late 2008, and the agency is working on device certification and granting authority to entities like Spectrum Bridge to serve as database coordinators to avoid interference in real time.

Like its previous deployment in Claudville, the network in North Carolina is operating with an experimental license from the FCC. Spectrum Bridge is using its intelligent, TV white-spaces database to dynamically assign non-interfering frequencies to white-space devices and is designed to adapt to new TV broadcasts in real time while protecting TV band users operating in the region.

Unlike the Claudville deployment, which is providing broadband services to end users, the deployment in North Carolina is what Spectrum Bridge calls the nation's first smart-city network. And the network will be operating in a region with 200,000 people, as opposed to Claudville's 680 people.

"This is much more focused on city-based services as opposed to anything that competes with DSL," said Rick Rotondo, vice president of marketing with Spectrum Bridge. Rotondo said the city is focusing on using white spaces to connect vital city functions that are too remote, costly or environmentally disruptive to be linked with fiber or Wi-Fi.

As such, the city is deploying applications that provide real-time traffic monitoring for the department of transportation. For instance, one of Wilmington's main thoroughfares — Martin Luther King Boulevard — includes a draw bridge that the city wanted to monitor with video cameras, but the remote location meant fiber or Wi-Fi could not be used to provide the connectivity. Video cameras also will be installed with links via white-spaces spectrum at community parks, allowing law enforcement to monitor those areas. Citizens and employees will be able to use the system to connect via Wi-Fi.

The network also will assist with monitoring the water bodies and wetlands, which is required by the Environmental Protection Agency. Once a month, a city worker typically is required to physically download information from sensors across the county, often by boat. And the information often is not current.

Rotondo said the city expects to realize savings of $100,000 per year in water-monitoring costs. Additional applications are planned, including water pump station monitoring and control, medical telemetry and expanded broadband access for schools.

"This is the initial phase, and we'll probably have eight to 10 radios up," Rotondo said. "Then, the idea is to collect data and determine if the network's reliability and throughput are satisfactory. ... It really will be a good case study of how much money the network can save."

Rotondo said the bigger test is proving that white-space networks can work in larger cities, where interference problems are more pronounced. Interestingly, Wilmington was selected for the trial network, because it was the first major TV market in the country to convert from analog to DTV broadcasting.