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Time to put wi-fi on steroids

Madura McCormack | Sept. 5, 2012
TV White Space the solution to easing wireless Internet traffic in Singapore

The world is going wireless and with such explosive growth, the wi-fi network infrastructure won't be able to handle the strain. With finite spectrum resources, what can be done?

The solution is TV White Space (TVWS) and it's already here.

Unused radio spectrum in the TV broadcast bands or simply 'TV White Space' is where the potential for alternative wireless broadband communications lie, according to the Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group.

The Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group (SWSPG) was formed in April 2012 and include founders software giant Microsoft, telecommunications leader StarHub and the Institute of Infocomm Research (I²R), a member of the Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*Star), among others.

At a media briefing held at Microsoft Technology Centre Singapore today, SWSPG explained the seemingly intricate innovation.

What is all this jargon? 

What is TV White Space? In technical terms, it is the gaps between broadcast channels and occurs in different places on different channels.

Imagine flipping through analog channels on a TV set, TVWS is literally the channels where there were no pictures, just "white snow".

There are about 11 channels at 8MHz of TVWS free currently in Singapore.

Clearing the congestion

Chief technology officer, public sector for Microsoft Asia Pacific Michael Thatcher put it simply: "We were looking for ways to guide the [wireless] traffic much like how we would direct vehicles in the city; if you can guide the traffic to areas with less congestion, we can have better and faster performance."

Two thirds of the channels of reserved TV bands in Singapore are not used. By tapping into the spectrum, it will then be possible to create premium wireless broadband delivery channels. Subsequently this will ease the strain on wi-fi infrastructure and increase productivity, according to the statement.

TVWS will do more than just provide backhaul for wi-fi, says SWSPG. Dubbed "wi-fi on steroids" by Business Minder, TVWS is able to travel over longer distances, penetrate more obstacles and translate to better coverage, lower power consumption and reduced network costs.

"As a nation with limited resources, it is critical for Singapore to ensure that it optimises the capabilities and productivity of its people so that it can stay ahead of the curve and stay relevant in a dynamic ever-changing world", said general manager, enterprise and partner group for Microsoft Asia Pacific Jessica Tan. 

To stress that it is "not just academic exercise", SWSPG presented to the media a series of three commercial pilot programmes dubbed "Through the trees, over the water and into homes", where the group demonstrated the ability of TVWS to overcome harsh terrain, reflective bodies of water and large distances.

The commercial endeavours will allow SWSPG to explore how TVWS technology can supplement existing wireless infrastructure, maximise spectrum efficiency and deliver innovative applications, according to the statement.

"The advent of TVWS in Singapore will also create new business opportunities in the technology ecosystem", Tan added.


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