DOST launches TV White Space to beef up connectivity

TV White Space Technology or Super Wi-fi or TV band launched in DOST event 

THE Department of Science and Technology’s Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO) recently launched the TV White Space (TVWS) Initiative to expand connectivity in the country, particularly among government systems. The program will use TV white space technology to provide data connectivity for various purposes such as rural broadband, environmental sensor networks, telemedicine, and educational content delivery, as well as government information systems.
TV white spaces are the unused television frequencies in the very high frequency and ultra high frequency bands. In 2010, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved the use of TVWS for data communications. Currently available TVWS equipment can deliver up to 6 Mbps of data throughput at a maximum range of 10 kilometers. This long range needs less base stations to provide coverage for a given area compared with existing wireless technologies. Thus, TVWS is a cost effective means of broadband data delivery. 

Other than its long range propagation characteristics, TVWS signals can literally pass through several concrete walls as well as thick foliage. This means that customer premise equipment can tap the signals via indoor antennas, making TVWS ideal for the uneven terrain in the countryside. 

Connectivity in rural areas 
“Frequency spectrum is a precious national resource, and it is imperative that we maximize its use for the benefit of most of our countrymen,” DOST secretary Mario Montejo said. “Technology should not only benefit those in the cities but also those in rural communities.” 

Meanwhile, DOST-ICTO executive director Louis Casambre expressed excitement over this new technology. “For the first time ever, I think we finally have a solution to address the issue… of (inaccessible) Internet connectivity because of the unavailability of infrastructure,” Casambre said. 

“With TVWS’s potentially large coverage footprint, coverage can be extended to areas not usually reached by conventional wired or wireless broadband. Base stations can also be further apart, making this a cost effective solution,” he added. 

According to Casambre, the propagation of radio waves in the TVWS band allows systems to reach places that existing technologies cannot. “Dense vegetation and terrain can be overcome as TVWS offers non-line-of-sight capabilities, enabling rural coverage for up to 10km, he said.

Another component of the TVWS initiative is the convening of a multi-sectoral ad hoc committee for the adoption of TV white space technology to formulate guidelines for spectrum usage and plan strategies for the adoption of TVWS not only by the government but the private sector as well. 

According to a study by the World Bank, a 10% increase in broadband penetration can boost the GDP growth of low- and middle-income developing countries by 1.38 percent. 

Pilot tests of TVWS equipment from hardware providers Adaptrum of the U.S. and Neul Ltd. from the U.K. will start this month, providing connectivity for several sites in the Quezon City science community. Pilot tests in the Visayas and Mindanao areas will follow within the year. 

The government is also looking at the technology for its environmental sensor networks such as those that are used by DOST’s National Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) project. During the recent DOST launch of TVWS technology, Neul VP for Sales and Applications Engineering Tracy Hopkins described the technology to technical session participants, particularly in sensor nets and machine to machine applications.

Further, Jeffrey Yan, Microsoft’s director of Technology Policy for Asia Pacific region, said, “TV White Spaces is one technology that helps enable ubiquitous and affordable broadband access, and could be used effectively in the Philippines to improve digital inclusion and further elevate its economy growth.” 

“The long-range and low-power characteristics of TV White Spaces technology provide a superb alternative for rural broadband coverage, cellular offloading, super-WiFi hot spots, and machine-to-machine communications such as sensor networks,” he added. Microsoft Corp. is one of the TV White Spaces for Broadband Wireless Access advocates. 

The launch of the TVWS Initiative was supported by Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), Microsoft and TVWS developers Neul and Adaptrum as well as UP Tele-Health, ABS-CBN, Ateneo and PhilDev.
(Roy Espiritu, S&T Media Service, ICTO)

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