Com­ple­ment­ing 3G and Wi-Fi, TVWS Will Fi­nally En­able In­ter­net Ac­cess Every­where


In Sin­ga­pore, it's easy to get In­ter­net ac­cess. Most house­holds and of­fices are wired up, and cel­lu­lar cov­er­age is (mostly) good when you're out and about. But there are blind spots for Wi-Fi and 3G; for ex­am­ple, when you're trekking in a for­est sur­rounded by dense veg­e­ta­tion. And that's where TV 'white spa­ces' (TVWS) come in, which sim­ply put, is to make use of unused TV fre­quen­cies in the broad­cast TV spec­trum for al­ter­na­tive wire­less broad­band.

TVWS shares many sim­i­lar­i­ties with Wi-Fi, but holds the up­per hand in cer­tain ar­eas. For ex­am­ple, its non-line-of-sight char­ac­ter­is­tic al­lows it to pen­e­trate nat­u­ral ob­sta­cles such as dense veg­e­ta­tion, hills, and re­flec­tive wa­ter sur­faces. More im­por­tantly, it re­quires lower power, is cheaper to de­ploy, and is able to cover longer dis­tances. For Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia, In­done­sia and Brunei, the fo­cus at the mo­ment is on the 700MHz band, which is the band used for ana­log broad­cast­ing.

The Sin­ga­pore White Spa­ces Pilot Group (SWSPG) is lead­ing this TVWS ini­tia­tive. With the bless­ings of the In­fo­comm De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (IDA) and us­ing TVWS ge­olo­ca­tion data de­vel­oped by Mi­crosoft, more pilot projects have been re­cently an­nounced - and they go be­yond wire­less In­ter­net ac­cess ser­vices. For ex­am­ple, the Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Board - Sin­ga­pore's pub­lic hous­ing agency - is us­ing TVWS tech for video sur­veil­lance for rooftop se­cu­rity, car park en­force­ment, and get­ting real-time video from the lift sys­tem in HDB build­ings. And Sentosa is us­ing it to de­ploy se­cu­rity sur­veil­lance cam­eras at a cou­ple of beaches. In­deed, with ap­pli­ca­tions rang­ing from wire­less broad­band ac­cess and M2M (ma­chine-to-ma­chine) con­nec­tiv­ity, to smart me­ter­ing and se­cu­rity mon­i­tor­ing net­works, TVWS is as promis­ing a tech­nol­ogy for a golf course owner hop­ing to pro­vide wire­less broad­band to its mem­bers when they're on the course, as to tel­cos look­ing to ease In­ter­net traf­fic con­ges­tion, or gov­ern­ments in de­vel­op­ing na­tions look­ing to pro­vide broad­band ac­cess in ru­ral ar­eas.

All that said; it would take at least a cou­ple more years be­fore 'Su­per Wi-Fi' be­comes ubiq­ui­tous here. For one, IDA still needs time to fi­nal­ize a reg­u­la­tory frame­work (pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion is now on-go­ing), and man­age prac­ti­cal prob­lems like cross-bor­der in­ter­fer­ence. But that day will come, es­pe­cially as we move closer to 2020, the dead­line set for ASEAN coun­tries to fully tran­si­tion from ana­log to dig­i­tal TV broad­casts.

"TVWS shares many sim­i­lar­i­ties with Wi-Fi, but holds the up­per hand in

cer­tain ar­eas."

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