Internet access is very important these days. But unfortunately, not all people can get access to the proper internet network, even for those who live in the most developed country. Statistic says that at least 3.9 billion people around the world are enjoying fixed broadband access. In the US alone, internet access through home broadband is owned by 72 percent of people. While for the rest, which is about 60 million people, they’re still living without it due to high expense of home broadband internet access. And this is where TV White Space Technology should come up, to provide cheaper and more established home broadband access for everyone in every areas.
The Background of TV White Space Technology
In TV transmission system, which is usually arranged regionally by employing VHF and UHF spectrum, there are spare channels called “white space”, or simply known as “buffer channels”. These are the spare channels which are aimed to avoid interference between TV’s transmission and the other neighboring signal. But, further research suggest that these signals are actually has similar characteristics to 4G, and they can deliver internet signal as well.
White space is not something new actually. It’s been used in the past for the purpose of Program Making and Special Event (PMSE) device such as wireless microphone. But, due to the further finding that White Space can be used to deliver broadband internet access, expert started to look for possibility to make this broadband internet access through TV White Space technology possible.
What is TV White Space Technology?
From the background above, we can draw a conclusion that TV White Space (TVWS) is a technology that provides broadband internet access by employing spare channels, or “White Space”, between TV’s transmission signals. In its operation, this technology uses online geo-location database to decide which specific frequency between the white spaces that can be used to conduct internet broadband access. So, all signals which operate within white spaces can operate in harmony, and not interfering each other.
One major characteristics of TV White Space Technology is that this uses lower frequency than WLAN network, usually 470 MHz – 790 MHz. But, it travels in much longer distance and could penetrate to permanent obstacles such as walls and trees, as well as travelling around terrain. It’s said that in one channel of TV White Space, it could provide over tens of Mbps bandwidth in several kilometers of distance. This bandwidth can still even be increased by employing multiple channels combination.
However, there is a limitation in using TV White Space Technology, especially due to the multiple usages of white space channel. As stated before, it’s not only TV White Space that uses the white space. But, some other devices under PMSE category operate within white space spectrum too. And usually, PMSE users are priority in this white space channels, causing interference on the TV White Space broadband internet. Because of this, TVWS is best to be used in rural area where there is no much interference, especially from PMSE users.
Early Implementation of TV White Space Technology
Nowadays, the use of TV White Space Technology is not as mainstream as other common broadband internet access provider. But, this technology is ready to go public, and has been tested several times with good result. In 2011, a group of technology giants consisted of Microsoft, Nokia, BT, and BBC launched some kind of consortium for TV White Space project. And at the end of that year, regulator of UK communication equipment, Ofcom, allowed 6 months of trial for the technology.
Still in 2011, Wilmington city in North Carolina also implemented TV White Space Technology in their city’s infrastructure. The implementation of this technology allows public officer to provide internet access through TV White Space Broadband service to certain areas of the town, remotely controlling city’s lights, and monitors the water level as well. Then, move to West Virginia University, the TV White Space technology is used to make what they called “Super Wi-Fi Network” possible, making the institution the first campus that uses TV White Space broadband internet.
Benefits of using TV White Space Technology
There are many benefits of using TV White Space Technology, especially due to the characteristics of it. When we use traditional WLAN network for example, it can only covers around 100 meters diameter, and it only able to penetrate two walls. But, when we use TV White Space network, it has greater coverage areas up to 10 km diameters, which is like 100 times bigger coverage than the WLAN itself. More interestingly, this technology also penetrates to permanent obstacles such as trees or walls.
The next benefits is regarding to the lower expense it requires to establish TV White Space network. When we use microwave network, it requires what we call line-of-sight (LOS) between points along the route. That’s why in some rugged areas, we need to build tall towers to establish this LOS, which obviously, takes so many expenses. But, when using TV White Space, the lower frequency it has can travel through the terrain and penetrate to any barrier, so that we don’t need to build this tall tower along the line.
TV White Space Technology for Rural Connect
As said by Dr. Apurva N. Mody, the chairman of WhiteSpace Alliance, an organization that is established to support the development of TV White Space technology, TV white space is the perfect technology to be implemented in rural areas. These are the areas where they never receive a good broadband service in both past and present.
As we know, the characteristic of rural areas is that houses have a long distance from one to another. So, it’s nearly impossible for cable or fiber optics service to cover these houses. By implementing TV White Space Technology to deliver good broadband service, this main problem can be solved. All houses in the rural areas can be covered well by the wireless technology, without any needs of installing cables. So, they can enjoy the proper broadband internet access.
That’s all the reasons why TV White Space Technology is something that’s worth to consider. Besides offering better broadband access even for rural areas, the use of TVWS is also more economic compared to other networks such as microwave or fiber optics. So, with further research, we hope that this TV White Space Technology can be improved, and spread wider to provide proper broadband internet access for everyone in everywhere.