Centre could boost broadband access for rural communities

Strathclyde University has formally opened its Centre for White Space Communications, which will develop and apply dynamic spectrum technology to exploit unused white space spectrum capacity.

Working with partners including Microsoft, BT and the BBC, the centre will reportedly capitalise on the white space available in many frequency bands, as well as that made available from the discontinuation of analogue television, to shape the future for wireless access to the internet.

Applying dynamic spectrum access technology to the unused white space capacity enables better broadband access for rural communities, supporting businesses through online commerce and opening communication channels for the benefit of health, education and business development.

According to the university, white space opportunities are not just UK based, and in Europe, the Americas and Africa an era of public access to white space radio spectrum is approaching, with the centre anticipating significant progress over the next few years.

Prof Sir Jim McDonald, principal of Strathclyde University, said: ‘The Centre for White Space Communications is taking the lead to capitalise on a global opportunity that will have a positive impact on industry, business, communities and the wider economy.’

Through engagement with industry and policy makers, the centre aims to advance technology to improve efficiency and extend the techniques to bands beyond the TV white spaces, which are its current focus.

This will enable improved wireless broadband access and a plethora of smart-rural developments, thereby maximising the technical, economic and social yield from spectrum.

The capabilities of white space spectrum for extending rural broadband access have already been demonstrated in a trial project on the Isle of Bute. Supported by the UK Technology Strategy Board, the project involved BT, the BBC, Steepest Ascent, NetPropagate and Berg Design as industry partners.

By accessing otherwise unused white space capacity on Bute, a number of homes can now experience broadband internet access.

‘We are excited about the potential and possibilities in the use of TV white space technology,’ said Jim Beveridge, senior director of the Microsoft Technology Policy Group. ‘We believe tapping unused spectrum will help support innovation in the UK’s tech sector and extend the broadband access needed by rural and unserved communities not only in the UK but globally, and essentially transform the local economies and create opportunities for ambitious SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises].’