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Turning unused TV frequencies into wireless broadband

The Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group takes the nation’s capability in ‘white space’ wireless connectivity to a new level

Every day in Singapore, millions of mobile devices connect to the web wirelessly. The rapid growth of data traffic is putting a strain on current network infrastructure, prompting a need for innovative use of spectrum to increase wireless broadband capacity.

In recent years, the method of providing wireless internet access through unlicensed TV broadcasting frequencies — also known as TV white spaces (TVWS) — is gaining traction. TVWS was originally used as a buffer to minimize interference in analog broadcasts. Since the digitization of TV channels, an abundance of frequencies has been freed up. These frequencies can potentially be utilized to provide cost-effective wireless broadband.

In April 2012, the Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group (SWSPG) was formed to support Singapore’s efforts to adopt TVWS for consumer and business services and applications. The founding members included A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), Microsoft Singapore, local telecommunications company StarHub, and Neul, a British mobile wireless data service provider. Five more members joined soon after, taking the number of early members up to nine.

“Our involvement in TVWS dates back to 2006 when we participated in the first IEEE TVWS standards,” commented Tan Geok Leng, executive director of the I2R. “I am proud to say that Singapore is one of the pioneers in this area of research, and continues to be a trailblazer in the global TVWS movement. The successful pilots that we have seen in Singapore have set benchmarks in showcasing the potential of TVWS technology in delivering reliable and cost efficient wireless broadband for multiple of commercial applications. With the new pilot projects, we hope to see TVWS being deployed in many other new and innovative applications.”

The SWSPG launched its first series of commercial pilot deployments of TVWS in September 2012. In one of the projects, I2R is working with Power Automation Pte Ltd to develop TVWS-based infrastructure for utility metering, which could be a basis of energy gird modernization. “The benefit of using TVWS technology is tremendous,” said Tracy Hopkins, vice president of Neul, “be it to support ‘smart city’ infrastructure, to extend connectivity into previously challenging environments or to enable ubiquitous, reliable wireless connectivity that will enhance our lives.”

In June 2013, the SWSPG welcomed nine new members to expand its range of projects. The SWSPG will work with the Housing and Development Board to trial various applications for residential buildings, as well as with the Eurokars Group to cost-effectively extend its IT network. The SWSPG will also be deploying TVWS pilot projects to Singapore’s new large-scale ecological park Gardens by the Bay and local island resort Sentosa to assess the viability of providing wireless internet service through TVWS. This new set of TVWS projects is the most extensive in the Asia-Pacific region to date. “The addition of these nine new members is a testament to the potential and demand for TVWS technology in Singapore,” commented Mock Pak Lum, chief technology officer of StarHub.

Meanwhile, researchers at the I2R are already working on next-generation TVWS technology that will improve spectrum efficiency, scalability and quality of service. “With the momentum gained worldwide regarding the potential of TVWS, we are looking forward to more innovative use of the technologies,” said Tan. “We believe TVWS is the first step to better utilize valuable frequency spectrums in order to support the exponential growth of wireless adoption.”

About the Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group

The Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group(SWSPG) was formed on 19 April 2012 by the A*STAR Institute for Infocomm Research, Microsoft Singapore and StarHub. Neul subsequently joined as a founding member; Adaptrum, Power Automation, the Singapore Island Country Club, Spectrum Bridge, ZDW, Grid Communications, Terrabit Networks, NICT, Eurokars Group, Sentosa, theHousing and Development Board, NexWave, iconectiv and ST (Info-Comm Systems) are also members. The group aims to pursue commercial pilots using TV White Spaces and associated technologies for innovative consumer and business services and applications in Singapore. The SWSPG welcomes local and international entities to join as members and work together to accelerate the adoption of TV white spaces technologies and policies locally, regionally and globally. Together, the group also aims to promote Singapore as a leading test-bed and innovation zone for this new and exciting technology.

Associated links

A*STAR Research | Research asia research news
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