White space is the missing link for rural broadband to boost UK GDP

TTP delivers 8Mbps broadband service over a single TV channel

White space technology could help drive the UK economy forward by providing high performance rural broadband for up to 2million ‘un-served’ premises across the country, according to TTP, one of the companies at the heart of the Cambridge TV White Spaces Consortium trials. “Entire rural communities could be rapidly connected using low-cost hardware operating in unlicensed TV white space,” says Richard Walker, Head of Wireless from TTP at today’s Consortium conference. “And with research suggesting that every 10 percent increase in broadband penetration could increase GDP by 1 percent, this gives the potential for well over £10billion per year for the UK economy.”

As part of the Consortium trials, TTP in collaboration with Neul, delivered a broadband service of 8Mbps over a single 8MHz TV channel, via a white space link between its headquarters in Melbourn, south of Cambridge, to the remote village of Orwell 5.5 km away. TTP believes it is possible to achieve speeds of 20Mbps or more using future generations of hardware over a single channel link, compared to wired ADSL broadband that struggles to achieve 2Mbps across less than half the range.

“The cost of deployment is significantly lower and faster than fibre over long distances in remote areas,” says TTP’s Walker. “Consumers will simply have to purchase a second TV aerial along with a white space router similar in size and price to existing home routers, while we would expect service charges to be similar to current ADSL costs. The main barrier to entry today is regulation, however with the UK Government committed to delivering broadband to all and Ofcom driving the legislation, we may see deployment of white space systems and applications as early as 2013,” explains Walker.

The potential market and economic benefits are even higher in countries that do not have an established wired infrastructure; where cable installations regularly get looted; or where it is simply not economical to install cable. While mobile cellular can serve some of these markets, white space is very attractive from both a cost and bandwidth availability perspective.

Central to TTP’s development effort is making sure that white space devices do not interfere with primary users such as TV receivers. This is managed by real time intelligence in the devices, which know their locations and access information from central databases that tell them which frequencies and powers they can use to avoid licensed users.

TTP will continue its work to develop white space technologies with other Consortium partners. “With the key technical challenges being addressed, the next hurdle is for governments and society to change the way we manage and use spectrum on a global basis so that we can harness the full potential of white space,” says Walker.

The White Spaces Consortium brought together leading IT, telecoms, broadcast and media companies, while working closely with Ofcom to ensure that white space technology can be harnessed through a regulatory framework to benefit consumers and to accelerate further innovation in the UK and beyond.