TV White Spaces Business Model an Issue for CIO Group

For nearly all speakers at the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance Global Summit in Bangkok--but not all--there was not any doubt that TV white spaces and other new spectrum sources “should” be released for commercial use to support rural broadband access, ISP backhaul, machine to machine services, mobile operator or fixed operator small cell services, campus networks or additional local Wi-Fi distribution.

George Kintanar, chairman of the Philippines-based Chief Information Officers Forum, a group representing government technology chiefs, was a notable agnostic (naysayer, doubter or skeptic are too strong to describe his position).

It isn’t that Kintanar is opposed to release of more spectrum, especially TV white spaces, for commercial deployment. In fact, the CIO Forum is looking at the issue now.

And, as you might guess, he has the perspective of an end user when evaluating TV white spaces technology.

As an “enterprise user,” he wants a sustainable technology that will attract new service providers who will be around for the long term.

In other words, the last thing he wants to back is a technology that fails to become sustainable, since non-sustainable communications solutions, by definition, are too risky for enterprise buyers.

So the issue for potential enterprise and government buyers is whether enabling use of TV white spaces spectrum will be good for buyers of communication services, over time, or is exposed to the risk of failure. WiMAX might provide one example.

The risk could take any number of forms, including the danger that investors will not see a path to investment returns, meaning networks taking advantage of TV white spaces will not be built, or if built, will not remain in operation.

A related problem are sustainable business models offering the prospect of permanence, stability and further development over time.

The fact that some brand TV white spaces as “super Wi-Fi” suggests the concern. To the extent that TV white spaces winds up as a sort of “commons” approach to spectrum use, as Wi-Fi represents, Kintanar likely voices the concerns of many enterprise and governmental users of communication services.

If access to the spectrum is “without cost,” what is the incentive for new suppliers to create access services (new ways for enterprise and government buyers to source connections to the Internet and communication services, as opposed to “mere” local distribution within a building from an existing network access service?

In other words, Kintanar wants to see evidence of sustainable value for both buyers and providers, as that is the only way TV white spaces will thrive, long term.

But Kintanar’s concerns are so pronounced for one specific reason. “We want new entrants,” Kintanar says.

In part, that means new providers, presumably ISPs of some sort, will have to create value and satisfactory revenue models, while competing with the incumbent ISPs.

At least some other attendees thought that would be a key long term challenge. “The rule of three” suggests, in the end, only a few providers will be able to survive, or represent 80 percent or more of the revenue generated by providing those new services, one attendee suggested.

That seems to lie at the heart of Kintanar’s concern, as well. “Is there a business model?” he asked. For some, it is self evident a business model will be found. Kintanar, at least for the moment, wants more proof.
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