Developed in the U.K. and targeted soon as an available spectrum cleared by UK terrestrial TV, Weightless is an evolving air interface specification designed to provide M2M device connectivity within the white space spectrum.
The key premise of Weightless is that it can provide M2M coverage at a lower cost than rival network topologies – either short range wireless can provide to nearby gateway devices or embedded cellular connectivity leveraging already deployed cellular networks. Aimed at cellular operators, the technology can use the same base stations to provide coverage. Although this is a technology that can be leveraged across a range of M2M applications, the Weightless SIG’s initial focus is the U.K.’s ongoing smart metering rollout.
Although white space spectrum has yet to be cleared in the United Kingdom, the U.K. regulator Ofcom has already championed its potential and has decided that the spectrum will remain unlicensed and that the first commercial applications in the U.K. could be as soon as 2013.
Weightless has been trialled in a project in Cambridge, U.K., and the first silicon is expected to become available later this year. The technology will need to draw not just governments to free the spectrum but also MNO’s, chip manufacturers, device vendors and service support players and others. It is an enormous task and one that will require more than a competent technology alternative.
On top of that, Weightless has to change how MNO’s look at the potential of M2M. Currently, the appeal of the burgeoning M2M communications market is that a new generation of cellular connected devices brings new applications, customers, and revenues to their existing networks. The Weightless SIG’s proposition asks MNOs to move away from that incremental notion of M2M and instead plan for many millions of connected M2M devices supported by a new and separate wireless network.
Weightless’s proposition calls for significant rethinking and reinvesting and the Weightless SIG will have to prove that there is value in changing course for these players. At present, it is looking to do this well ahead of the expected exponential rise of M2M device deployment. The advantage of Weightless may be in far greater capacity without impacting existing cellular networks, but planning for that level of M2M capacity right now may be beyond the most far sighted of MNOs.