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White space exploration opportunities, Part 1

Published by
Oilfield Technology,

William M. Brown, Metric Systems Corp., USA, explores the opportunities provided by the use of the white space spectrum in the Marcellus Shale region.

The challenge of delivering wide-area terrestrial broadband services to the developing Marcellus Shale region is daunting. Topographically, the terrain is some of the most rugged and harshest of global plays. Marcellus geography ranges from gently rolling hills to wetlands to steep vertical rock barriers, making line-of-sight microwave links, along with wide-area sensor and SCADA networks, a challenge. In addition, seasonal variation of natural ground clutter and obstructions can seriously affect signal reliability. Currently, nearly all play theatre communications are supported through Satcom, 4G and, where available, LTE broadband systems. This approach, while satisfying basic requirements for voice and data, constrains operational efficiencies by limiting implementation of additional requirements such as video, real time streaming of well data and wide-area governmentally-mandated environmental monitoring.

This article will focus on presenting the corporate communications engineer and IT professionals with an introduction to the ‘White Space’ spectrum, a broadcast technology term for unused 6 MHz wide TV channels. This paper will describe the intrinsic benefits of white space and a basic deployment and use scenario applicable to the ever-increasing, tetherless connectivity requirements of the entire oil and gas production stream.

White space spectrum

On September 23, 2010, the US FCC opened for unlicensed secondary use, 293 MHz of prime VHF (54 - 60, 76 - 88 and 174 - 216 MHz) and UHF (470 - 602, 620 - 698 MHz) spectrum resulting from the transition in the US from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.

Table 1 shows the TV white space bands in the US, along with available spectrum, and conservative estimate of digital payload bandwidth as a function of current practical technology. The FCC allocates white space channels geographically with the goal of avoiding interference with existing incumbent users and over-the-air TV reception. The FCC has certified a number of third-party white space data base providers to allocate channels to certified FCC equipment users via a secure and transparent process.

Telcordia’s FCC-certified database provides available white space channels on a latitude, longitudinal and place name basis.1 As expected, the number of available white space channels increase as distance from urban areas increases.

Figure 1 shows the basic channel acquisition process for a fixed white space station. The base station acts as a channel acquisition server querying the third-party database and distributing operating channels to the client remote white space stations.

Figure 1. White space equipment channel acquisition process.

Intrinsic white space propagation benefits

The basic intrinsic value of using white space spectrum is superior propagation and building penetration compared to unlicensed spectrum in other bands such as the 900 MHz, 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. The core corporate competitive values include minimising equipment count, while extending operation into areas and situations that now may require costly satellite or transactionally-priced services.


1. Telcordia’s white space database:

Part 2 of this article can be reached here.

Part 3 of this article can be reached here.

Adapted by David Bizley

Read the article online at:


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