White Space Partnership Tackles Mobile Broadband


Two wireless specialists promise an affordable white space device for mobile broadband in remote areas

Cambridge-based Neul has signed a partnership deal with California-based Carlson in an effort to develop a device that will provide affordable mobile broadband connectivity for rural regions around the world.

The idea is that the two companies will jointly develop and market a new radio networking system that will use the so called ‘white space’ frequencies left-over in the TV spectrum.

Neul and Carlson are aiming to produce a device that will give wireless internet service providers (WISPs) access to more than 100MHz of white space radio spectrum in the UHF band. They ambitiously hope to have a working device available shortly, and expect volume shipments to begin before the end of 2011.

White Space Frequencies

According to both firms, the outstanding propagation characteristics of UHF signals mean that line of sight is not always needed to the subscriber’s home. This will apparently allow WISPs using the new system to deliver a “faster, more reliable service to more customers with the same network infrastructure, driving revenue and profit for WISPs.”

“White space” is a term used to describe frequencies within the broadcast TV band which are not used in every part of the country. At the moment, TV broadcasters in the UK have a national licence for their spectrum. These licences cover several different channels, which are used in different geographical locations – so at any given location many frequencies are unused. And as we switch from analogue TV to digital TV, this frees up to more valuable white space spectrum.

UK regulator Ofcom has opened up “white-space” frequencies to anyone who guarantees to follow a national database of free spectrum, and not to interfere with TV broadcasts. The United States has adopted similar policies, and other countries are expected to follow suit.

“Broadband is a global necessity in today’s world, and we see this partnership as a leap forward for rural broadband worldwide,” said Carlson CEO James Carlson. “This is a ground-breaking technology that uses vacated TV channels (TV white spaces) for broadband. It is especially effective in sparsely populated areas and rugged terrain, giving rural communities real-time access to the business opportunities and educational resources the internet has to offer.”

“Millions of people around the world do not currently have access to decent broadband at affordable prices,” said Luke D’Arcy, VP Marketing at Neul.

“In today’s world this is not acceptable,” he said. “Pioneering WISPs are already helping many people to get on-line. White space radio technology will allow them to serve even more customers, thanks to its long range and non line of sight capabilities.”

Track Records

Both companies stressed that the new product is the first white space radio system designed specifically for WISPs, making the new spectrum easy to use, and allowing WISPs to grow their businesses profitably.

The two companies could be onto something here, as they both have track records in this field.

The core team at Cambridge-based Neul was responsible for building Europe’s most successful fabless semiconductor company, Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR). It currently has several wireless data trials currently underway in the UK, and in June it revealed its “weightless” network technology to the world, and said that it planned license it.

California-based Carlson on the other hand was one of the first to implement successful TV white space-based broadband systems by virtue of experimental licenses, most notably on Native American reservations.

The two companies believe they can develop a high-bandwidth product that offers unrivalled range and signal penetration. They are initially aiming it at the United States and the United Kingdom, after gaining approval from both the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Ofcom, and will introduce a product to the open market by year’s end.

In August Cambridge Consultants said that white space radio frequencies will offer companies a range of innovative service opportunities. It said that the emergence of white space radio and its use in daily life is inevitable, and it will be increasingly used to support internet provision and broadcasting, among other things.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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