Cambridge White Space Consortium has completed its ten month trial of white space technology and declares it a success. The trial involved some 17 companies and demonstrated use of the technology for broadband connecting in both rural and urban settings.
The list of companies includes a mixture of household names and some less well known ones: Adaptrum Inc., Alcatel-Lucent, Arqiva, BBC, BSkyB, BT, Cambridge Consultants, CRFS, CSR plc., Digital TV Group (DTG), Microsoft Corp, Neul, Nokia, Samsung, Spectrum Bridge Inc., The Technology Partnership plc. (TTP) and Virgin Media.
White space systems operate by squeezing themselves into otherwise unoccupied spectrum, using geolocation databases to determine which are the safe frequencies to use in a specific area. Around Cambridge the trial had the use of 20 white space channels, a total of 160 MHz.
The city-centre deployment used the system to provide back-haul coverage for Wi-Fi hotspots, with sufficient capacity to support BBC iPlayer and Sky Go. In the rural setting, from a base station in Melbourn, service was provided to a household in Orwell, speeds of up to 8 Mbps were achieved using 8 MHz of bandwidth over 5.5km. With better radio hardware they expect to be able to achieve 20 Mbps across a single white space channel.
BT as part of its work in Cornwall is set to start another white space trial to replace its current 4G trial, as well as building the technical knowledge base, as triallists will have had 4G for some time, it will allow BT to assess which service customers might prefer.
The Cambridge trial while encouraging in being able to provide speeds in excess of what we expect from the Universal Service Commitment of 2 Mbps, seems to fall short of hitting any definition of superfast broadband (generally now accepted as 25 Mbps and faster). If what we have read is correct, it also seems that as a link technology it will mostly be suitable for areas with 5 to 10 properties, rather than remote villages of 200 properties.