U.K. Consortium Completes Extensive TV White Spaces Trial (4/25/12)
Following more than 10 months of testing in urban and rural areas in and around Cambridge, England, the Cambridge TV White Spaces Consortium demonstrated the potential of television white spaces. The consortium explored and measured a range of applications — rural wireless broadband, urban pop-up coverage and machine-to-machine communications — and found TV white spaces can be used to help satisfy the rapidly accelerating demand for wireless connectivity.
The consortium members recommend that the U.K. regulator Ofcom complete its development of the enabling regulatory framework in a manner that protects licensees from harmful interference and encourages innovation and deployment.
The consortium includes Adaptrum, Alcatel-Lucent, Arqiva, BBC, BSkyB, BT, Cambridge Consultants, CRFS, CSR, Digital TV Group (DTG), Microsoft, Neul, Nokia, Samsung, Spectrum Bridge, The Technology Partnership (TTP) and Virgin Media. The companies worked closely with Ofcom to ensure that this technology can now be harnessed through a regulatory framework to benefit consumers and further innovation.
The trial analysis found Cambridge has significant television white spaces capacity — 20 white spaces channels corresponding to 160 megahertz in total, of which 13 channels (104 megahertz) were allowed in the test license from Ofcom — which can be used to help augment existing broadband networks, extend broadband access to rural areas and allow for machine-to-machine communications. Further, geolocation databases, provided by Microsoft and Spectrum Bridge, proved a reliable way to control frequency use by the white spaces radios and to adapt to changes in spectrum use by the licensed users.
The consortium set up base stations on the north side of the Cambridge city center in four pubs and a theatre, aiming to provide widespread coverage, including "pop-up" Wi-Fi hot spots. The base stations were connected to dual omnidirectional wide-band antennas mounted on rooftops (radios and antennas provided by Neul), enabling considerably further coverage than could have been achieved with conventional Wi-Fi, in 2.4 GHz, for example. The tests showed that TV white spaces can help extend broadband access and offload mobile broadband data traffic.
A base station was installed at TTP's headquarters in Melbourn, a rural community south of Cambridge, and linked to a household in Orwell. The residents benefited from radical improvements in their broadband service, up to 8 Megabits per second (Mbps) net speed achieved over 5.5-kilometer links, within an 8 megahertz bandwidth, using a modified, prototype version of the Neul Weightless technology. TTP anticipates it would be possible to achieve speeds greater than 20 Mbps from its headquarters to Orwell using radios further optimized for rural broadband connectivity while occupying a single, dedicated TV white space channel.
Using the available white spaces, an application developed by BT and Neul sent an alert message to the city council when city dustbins were full and needed emptying. Nokia and Spectrum Bridge developed a location-based service application that was deployed in the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, one of Europe's leading aircraft museums. As museum visitors move around the collection, they can receive prompts on their smart mobile device informing them about the items they can see and offering related content.
Arqiva, BBC Research and Development, CSR and CRFS spearheaded laboratory and field measurements to better define the parameters needed to develop the regulatory framework required to enable the use of white space devices. The results of this work are being provided to the relevant U.K. and European regulatory bodies. In addition, the BBC developed the first version of a U.K-.wide database, which illustrates the typical availability that might be expected for TV white space devices following the completion of the UK digital television switchover.
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