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Could white space devices boost streaming community radio?

The Federal Communications Commission has put the finishing touches on its rules for “white space” broadband devices—that is, gadgets that can send and receive high speed Internet across unused TV channels. Rolling out the service will be very tricky, since it involves portable gizmos that link to mobile or fixed machines that link to a database that tells them which channels are currently unused, therefore available for streaming (the relax-it’s-going-to-be-easy-version is explained on the video on your right).

Anyway, assuming this project goes as scheduled (I’m guessing first devices in stores in a year or two), one would hope that folks will be able to start streaming radio stations using these machines.

Here’s what I’m hoping—that white space technology will make the economics of streaming radio cheaper. Right now bandwidth costs are clearly holding PC and mobile radio back.

As WFMU’s Ken Freedman puts it, “The way the Internet is built right now, there’s a catch 22, which is that the more people who use it [online streaming radio], the less well it works . . . The costs of operating an FM transmitter are minute compared to everything we spend for streaming, and we buy bandwidth in bulk.”

But that, I presume, is because Internet streaming radio stations buy their bandwidth from Internet Service Providers, rather than essentially becoming their own ISPs via these white space transmitters. Unlicensed bandwidth devices will allow neighborhoods to create community mesh networks that transmit and receive data through the unused TV bands. These mesh systems could obviously stream radio.

I’m not sure whether this technology will lend itself to big Internet streaming operations at this point. But it could facilitate smaller ones. It all depends on how fast the technology rolls out, and how quickly consumers adopt it.

Anyone out there with big radio-related plans for this stuff? Drop us a line!

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5 Responses to Could white space devices boost streaming community radio?

  1. Jarrod Mains September 27, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    You mention the high cost of bandwidth and all the equipment radio stations need to buy in order to stream online and to mobile phones. This is a myth, a common misconception many broadcasters have. Streaming is not only affordable, it can also be profitable for radio stations as we build custom streaming players for the broadcasters to use and control implemented with multiple new revenue generating features.

    I work for a streaming provider and our streaming plans start at $99/month. This includes live and on-demand streaming online and mobile streaming. The radio station uses our bandwidth and only needs a dedicated PC for its streaming and an audio source. THAT’S IT.

    So in reality, radio broadcasters can start streaming for $99/month as long as they already have a standard PC (minimum requirements are just 512 mb of ram although we always recommend at least 1 gb).

    Of course, if the broadcaster is going to play music, they will have to get the proper licenses from the standard Performing Rights Organizations.

    Streaming through TV channels is news to me so thanks for bringing that up. Take a look at our website for additional information or contact me with any comments.

    Best regards,

    Jarrod Mains

    Streaming Specialist

    Securenet Systems

    O: 954-481-9402 x206

  2. Paul Riismandel September 27, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    Jarrod: I’m very curious about how your company can offer a $399/month unlimited listener plan. It doesn’t match up with any of the economic models of streaming that I’m aware of, and I’ve been in the industry for 14 years. It would be great if you would educate me on how this works.

  3. Jarrod Mains September 28, 2010 at 3:26 pm #


    Our unlimited is a best effort plan. It’s a plan best fitted to those who feel the Basic and Advanced plans are not enough, yet they do not have a solid number in mind or know they will exceed those numbers right off the bat.

    So that is where the Unlimited Plan comes into play.

    This plan has no cap, and as long as the numbers aren’t in the thousands simultaneously for hours on end, it accommodates a lot of stations just fine.

    However, if you are anticipating numbers in the thousands simultaneously for extended periods of time, custom plans are available.

    Hope this answers your question!


  4. Paul Riismandel September 29, 2010 at 6:45 am #


    Thanks for the explanation.

    It sounds like your unlimited plan would be a good fit for a lot of stations that aren’t sure of the size of audience they have online–or that have an audience slightly larger than your top non-unlimited plan–and need the ability to meet occasional peak demand that exceeds the average.

    However, there are stations that need to serve a consistent number of listener streams that number in the thousands for hours at a time. Those stations would require something guaranteed in an SLA rather than best effort. And this comes at a greater cost, which is the only point I’ve ever made.


  5. Willie... September 22, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    The first commenter referred to obtaining licenses from the “Standard Performing Rights organizations”. Perhaps the moniker, “Music MAFIAA” will be more familiar. $99/month for streaming is fine, as long as you don’t play one single note of copyrighted music. You *MUST* pay the piper, and the piper’s lawyers, handsomely, for the “rights” to play music. Add a significant amount of $$$ to the cost of streaming if you want to play music that people will recognize, and want to hear.

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