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White space to reduce the bleak broadband future for rural areas?
Monday 29 April 2013 13:40:33 by Andrew Ferguson

The radio spectrum below 1 GHz is a limited finite resource and thus efficient use of it is something Ofcom has to manage. One advantage of the switching off of the old analogue TV spectrum has been more frequencies available for 4G, and TV White Space technology is looking to exploit the gaps in spectrum use across the UK.

TV White Space has potential access to a reasonable chunk of spectrum and with the appropriate management can operate so that it does not affect TV transmissions. The fact the technology works has been shown in various trials, one of the best known run by Cambridge Wireless.

So now we have Ofcom looking to pilot actual devices and uses for White Space services, be that short range inter-device communication or full blown rural broadband coverage. Though TV White Space may have less frequency to occupy in another five years or so if 4G or 5G are rolled out at the 700 MHz band with the corresponding shrinking of spectrum available for FreeView TV services.

While we see White Space as an interesting technology and one to complement other enhancements, if the speeds of 20 Mbps in a single 8 MHz spectrum block at a range 5km are the sum total of the efforts, it may really only be of use for isolated communities of 5 to 10 properties. The 2 Mbps Universal Service Commitment may have been the vision of what we all needed back in 2008 and 2009, but this is looking increasingly dated.

The technological race to find systems that delay the absolute need to deploy a full fibre (FTTH/FTTP) network in the UK are interesting, and if as a nation we are not ready to shoulder the burden of financing a true national fibre network, be that one with Openreach at its centre, or a new independent network then we will continue to evaluate this alternative technologies.


Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
"Points close to the BS enjoy high bandwidth connections whilst remote points must operate in more robust modulation modes which deliver less throughput." and as always the total throughput is divided among connected users.
Posted by g_p_s over 3 years ago
This seems to be a continuation of the short-term thinking that has got us to the mess we are now in. I believe the internet should be treated as one element of the UK's core infrastructure and be managed as such. A FTTH/FTTP network, delivering a minimum speed of 10Mbps for a modest monthly fee yet with capacity for 100Mbps and 1000Mbps at premium prices which reflect the cost of service provision should be the ultimate (nera-term) objective. Surely the question should be 'can the UK afford *not* to', not 'can the UK afford to'.
Posted by GMAN99 over 3 years ago
Sounds good g_p_s but the government doesn't seem too interested in spending much money on broadband.
Posted by g_p_s over 3 years ago
The government wouldn't be - their only interest lies in getting re-elected at the next general election, thereby perpetuating the short-termism that is the fundamental problem. Perhaps we need an e-petition, a major publicity campaign and anything else that could elevate core infrastructure issues above the pettiness and self-interest of party politics. And when *my* revolution comes ... .
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
If we are suffering from short-term thinking, who is the best example of benefitting from long-term thinking, that we should/could emulate?

Of somewhere of the similar magnitude of land, population and wealth, that is. Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong don't count...
Posted by g_p_s over 3 years ago
Should the UK be trying to emulate anyone else, rather than setting an example to others?

Perhaps the successes of Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong support the proposition that the significant investments made there are benefitting those countries accordingly.

And if the UK was able to offer the connectivity available in those countries, wouldn't the UK be more attractive for investments than those countries that cannot?

Again, can the UK afford *not* to invest?
Posted by mpellatt over 3 years ago
The only person I've heard speak sensibly about how radio should be used is Dr Peter Cochrane.

Management summary: Put cellular picocells on the end of FTTP.

He's so right. The laws of physics determine that fixed connections will always be faster than any free-space elctromagnetic-wave connection that can penetrate hard surfaces.

Review his evidence to the House of Lords for a session in What We Should Be Doing.
Posted by michaels_perry over 3 years ago
Potentially yet more problems for Freeview viewers! They are currently being forced to retune yet again as they move transmissions out of the Ch60+ range to free up the 800MHz spectrum. That is causing serious problems for some with communal/shared aerial systems failing to react to the change. Freeing up the 700MHz plus spectrum will mean the same pain yet again and for more people.
BAD IDEA just to benefit a few.
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