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IEEE White Space Standard To Fix Rural Broadband

Rural Britain
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Rural broadband could receive a boost after the IEEE formally published its white space standard

The IEEE standards body has officially published its standard for equipment that would use white space frequencies.

The standard, dubbed the IEEE 802.22 standard, would effectively allow for the delivery of a wireless broadband service that could cover a wide regional area.

This makes it ideally suited for the delivery of broadband into those rural areas poorly served by fixed-line communications.

Super Wi-Fi Network

Essentially the new standard can be compared to a super Wi-Fi network that can cover a 100 kilometre or 62 mile area.

The IEEE says this new standard utilises Wireless Regional Area Networks (WRANs) that “take advantage of the favourable transmission characteristics of the VHF and UHF TV bands to provide broadband wireless access over a large area up to 100 km from the transmitter.”

“Each WRAN will deliver up to 22Mbps per channel without interfering with reception of existing TV broadcast stations, using the so-called white spaces between the occupied TV channels,” the IEEE said. “This technology is especially useful for serving less densely populated areas, such as rural areas, and developing countries where most vacant TV channels can be found.”

According to the IEEE, the 802.22 standard incorporates “advanced cognitive radio capabilities including dynamic spectrum access, incumbent database access, accurate geolocation techniques, spectrum sensing, regulatory domain dependent policies, spectrum etiquette, and coexistence for optimal use of the available spectrum.”

The UK is already well down the route of switching off the old analogue television signal, in order to free up valuable spectrum. This new standard will now give manufacturers a blueprint to use when they start producing hardware that can make use of the white space freed up by the analogue TV signal.

White Space Frequencies

White space frequencies occupy parts of the unlicensed spectrum, unlike mobile phone networks. At the moment Wi-Fi networks also utilise this spectrum.

In June a consortium that includes Microsoft, BT and the BBC, announced it would test “white space” spectrum in Cambridge, to see if the technology can provide the bandwidth to complete the UK’s broadband coverage issue.

Essentially that trial will look at whether the technology is commercially viable for a range of applications.

Last November Ofcom announced a consultation about how “white space technology” will work in practice.