Wi-Fi industry leaders, journalists, investors, and regulators assembled on the Stanford campus Wednesday, July 11, to discuss and debate the future of unlicensed wireless technology in a program called “The Power and Potential of the Unlicensed Economy.”
The most significant technologies that use unlicensed spectrum are Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth®; over 3 billion devices using these technologies are expected to be produced by 2015, and in a presentation by the University of Southampton, over 100 billion unlicensed devices are projected to be in use by 2020. In addition, many of these devices, such as smartphones (using Wi-Fi for data off-load), tablets, ultrabooks, laptops, and televisions will be used be used to watch videos online, creating a massive demand for bandwidth and backhaul to access points.
When added to the billions of “smart devices” that will be equipped with wireless technology such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the wireless industry and spectrum regulators face a daunting challenge – such staggering numbers of devices using the unlicensed bands and their need for spatial data capacity will increase congestion many times over what users experience today.
To meet these challenges, several panelists at the conference discussed an emerging concept in spectrum policy: dynamic spectrum access using “white spaces” – spectrum that is unused or underused in some locations. Inherent in this exciting new way to manage spectrum more efficiently is knowledge of a user’s location, so that a regulatory database can determine if there will be interference. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States was the first regulatory authority in the world to announce regulations for use of white spaces in the upper UHF bands from 470-690MHz, which will be shared with TV broadcasters and wireless microphones. The United Kingdom is expected to announce its own regulations in these bands later this year. In future years, regulators are looking to use these location databases in other bands to free up spectrum for unlicensed or “lightly licensed” use.
Dr. Jim Lansford, a Fellow in CSR’s Global Standards group, gave a presentation on “Automotive Applications for Unlicensed Spectrum” where he described the uses of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in automotive applications, and the dramatic growth projected for these technologies in cars. According to Strategy Analytics, by 2015 Bluetooth will be in 72% of cars, and Wi-Fi will be in 30%, enabling many exciting new usage models. As regulators authorize use of new spectrum under these dynamic access rules, automobiles will be required to know their location within 100 meters in order to be able to determine what bands of spectrum are available, making use of GPS and related location technologies even more necessary in the automotive market. As a leader in location technology, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi for automotive markets, CSR will continue to bring innovative platform solutions to our customers in these emerging areas of wireless technology.