TV White Space as a Feasible Solution to Spread Mobile Broadband

17 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2017 Last revised: 16 Aug 2017

See all articles by Miquel Oliver

Miquel Oliver

Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Francisco Salas

Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Date Written: March 31, 2017


In the last years the consumption of mobile data services has greatly increased, as more users consume everyday through their smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other devices to access internet. In addition the significant increase of video represents a challenge, as increased usage strains the capacity of the airwaves. Many experts agree that, despite the continuous investment in networks and advances in wireless efficiency, the increment demand for mobile broadband service is likely to surpass the available spectrum capacity in the short term. This has led to the mobile operators to compete in order to gain access to a share of the available spectrum commonly referred as “TV White Spaces” (TWS), which can be defined as the VHF/UHF frequencies left in idle by the Television broadcasting. These bands have excellent characteristics as: propagation, low level of noise, large macro-cell sizes and low density of subscribers. These idle frequencies also offer an exceptional opportunity to connect sparse communities found on the extensive rural areas to bridge digital gaps, especially because there are no plans to extend fiber to these communities and they provide a really cost-effective solution compared to fiber. Starting in 2012, several pilots and experiences around the globe were launched. Most of them were endorsed by non-telco organizations such as Microsoft and Google from slightly different purposes, angles and perspectives. Uruguay, Colombia, Jamaica as well as Ghana, Kenya and many other countries including US and Europe participated in proofs of concept, pilots or initial developments to benchmark TVWS as a cost-effective mobile broadband solution for a sundry of scenarios. The main purpose of this analysis is to query for those TVWS pilots and infer which is the current status of them worldwide. The first TWS pilots will surely provide suitable experience to define the roadmap and future applications in the development and uptake of the mobile broadband market. The analysis does an exhaustive review and a compilation of the general data from the studies that report the status of TVWS pilots such as its main purpose, status of the trial, stakeholders involved, timeline, regulations, viability and political will to follow up with this technology. The analysis of data provided by those projects and pilots have been approved to check the reliability this technology may do have in each area. The focus is multidisciplinary, where technology plays a key role but regulations and the market has to be also included in the final equation to have a complete picture of the whole TVWS solution.

The results will allow us to summarize a set of case studies and to wrap up the lessons learned from the initial TVWS deployments. Good and best practices and the role played by TVWS in the national digital agendas whether this technology is still a solution to deploy mobile broadband solutions in certain markets.

Keywords: TV white spaces, spectrum regulation

JEL Classification: L96

Suggested Citation

Oliver, Miquel and Salas, Francisco, TV White Space as a Feasible Solution to Spread Mobile Broadband (March 31, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Miquel Oliver (Contact Author)

Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( email )

Carrer Ramon Trias Fargas


Francisco Salas

Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, E-08005

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