BT, BBC and Microsoft In Cambridge White Space Trial

Cambridge will test whether “white space” radio systems can communicate and solve Britain’s broadband crisis

On by Peter Judge 5

A consortium will test “white space” spectrum in Cambridge, to see if the technology can provide bandwidth to complete  the UK’s broadband coverage.

The consortium which includes Microsoft, BT and the BBC, will test white space radio, a technology designed to get more use out of radio spectrum allocated for TV broadcast. White space radio has been proposed to complete the UK’;s broadband coverage, and the test will focus on whether it works – and is compatible with other radio users.

Will white space radios play nicely?

Kings college chapel, Cambridge, by Christian Richardt, Wikimedia

The group will test radios that use TV broadcast spectrum to communicate, but don’t interfere with TV transmissions because they use  particular frequencies that are not being used in their  location. The test network involves Cambridge-based white space radio specialist Neul Networks,  as well as US-based white space experts TTP, Spectrum Bridge and Adaptrum.

“With the number of connected devices and data applications growing rapidly, and with mobile networks feeling the strain, we must find ways of satisfying the traffic demands of today and tomorrow,” said a statement from the group. “This trial will attempt to demonstrate that unused TV spectrum is well-placed to increase the UK’s available mobile bandwidth, which is critical to effectively responding to the exponential growth in data-intensive services, while also enabling future innovation.”

The use of white space radio has been proposed in the US, but has mired in arguments. The UK may be more open to the proposals, and could allow unlicensed use of the technology across the countryif the tests show that it communicates effectively, and does not interfere with TV transmissions or other radio users. BT is involved in another trial in the remote Scottish isle of Bute – this trial is designed to test penetration and interference in a more urban environment.

Neul Networks, based in Cambridge, will presumably be central to the test: its NeulNet prototype product offers speeds of up to 16Mbps for devices close to the base station, but this reduces to 10kbps at distances up to 10km. This lets Neul offer two apparently contradictory benefits: coverage and cost.

The whole country could be covered by around 6,000 NeulNet base stations, which could be placed on existing cell towers, which would provide good enough coverage for low-bandwidth applications such as communicating with Smart Grid electricity meters.

Microsoft has  published a blog post, with a promotional video, arguing for the use of white space in both Britaqin and the US.  Phone makers Nokia and Samsung are also involved.




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5 replies to BT, BBC and Microsoft In Cambridge White Space Trial

  • On June 28, 2011 at 8:04 am by Lawrence Clayton

    Linpop has already done this, we have gone past testing/development stage. Linpop has started phase 1 of its roll out in rural North Lincolnshire. Delivering speeds up to 100Meg 1:1 over distances of 12 Miles, and home/domestic up to 10Meg covering 18 Miles per mast site.

    • On June 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm by Lawrence Clayton

      Linpop is already delivering wireless high speed broadband over long distances using readily available equipment. Giving solutions to rural Lincolnshire. We are filling the gap now. (We are not using “white space” technology)

  • On June 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm by Peter Judge

    Thanks Lawrence. This piece was on white space radio.

    Do keep us posted in what you are doing.


  • On June 29, 2011 at 3:18 pm by Gerald Chouinard

    The IEEE 802.22 Standard that is to be published by the end of the week (July 1st, 2011) was developed over the last 6 years especially for operation in the 6, 7 and 8 MHz TV channels while protecting TV, DTV and wireless microphone (PMSE) operation. The Standard includes necessary means to operate in TV White Space while avoiding interference to the primary users: RF sensing and/or geolocation and database query.
    The IEEE 802.22 Standard also provides for a trade-off between capacity (20 Mbit/s upstream/downstream close to the base station) and coverage (48 kbit/s out to 40 km) with a maximum of 4 Watt user terminal EIRP.

    • On July 13, 2011 at 12:33 pm by Gonzalo

      Has the IEEE 802.22 Standard been published yet?

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