Ofcom has given the green light to investigate a new version of the mobile internet using the “TV white space.”
“White space” is an innovative wireless technology and is appealing for industry because it can travel longer distances and more efficiently through walls than the bands mainly used by other wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
“White spaces” are gaps in the radio spectrum in frequency bands, which can be used to offer new wireless applications to benefit consumers and businesses, for instance, a benefit would be to connect ships to the internet. The technology would mean that remote regions the Orkney Islands, which have no wireless broadband availability, could now see their fishing boats connected.
A trial at ZSL London Zoo used a TV white space network to run video streaming stream of the Zoo’s meerkats, Asian otters and giant Galapagos tortoises to YouTube. The signals are able to penetrate foliage and buildings to establish a fast data connection capable of streaming high quality video.
The trial used Google’s spectrum database and will help ZSL London Zoo test the technology for use in additional efforts to monitor and protect endangered animals in the wild. The technology is also being trialled in flood defences in the Thames and Cherwell rivers near Oxford.
Due to its superior coverage and non-line-of-sight signal, it has been dubbed ‘Super Wi-Fi.’
Not only does this “Super Wi-Fi” boast long-distance propagation with low power consumption, but it also provides strong signals and increased data rates even in rural areas. While traditional Wi-Fi technology has a limited range, about 100 meters, and weakens in rugged terrain, a TV White Space network has the ability to penetrate foliage, hills, and other barriers while covering an area about 10 kilometres in diameter utilising minimal equipment and infrastructure.
It is hard to believe, but so many areas in the United Kingdom still suffer from really poor broadband with some households not receiving any internet whatsoever. I was speaking to a BT Outreach engineer last week, and he recounted the story of visiting a customer who had previously ‘enjoyed’ access to the World Wide Web for less than thirty minutes a day, and then at such a slow speed, it could barely be called Wi-Fi.
So when I heard of this move by Ofcom, I gave it a resounding yes! This is truly a game changer. I find it hard to appreciate that UK residents still suffer from limited or no access to Wi-Fi.
That said when you hear that countries like Africa only have 16% of its population online, you understand why companies such as Google and Microsoft are already chasing the emerging White Space market. Because the waves can travel up to 10 kilometres in radius, it is excellent for remote, off-the-grid villages.
After the aforementioned trials, it looks to be a rosy future for White Space, and I’ll be watching closely as the technology unfolds during the year.
Until next time.