White space shown to provide broadband to rural areas

Engineers at Cambridge Consultants have designed a system to demonstrate that the unused spectrum between TV channels called white space can provide broadband services to rural areas.

The system was built to deliver wireless broadband over local white-space TV frequencies to the village of Cottenham in Cambridgeshire.

The network was tested using a range of social media tools such as Twitter, YouTube and Skype video, marking the first time white-space spectrum has been used in this way.

The village of Cottenham was chosen because of its lack of wireless provision and availability of spectrum. Transmitting from an antenna positioned at the top of Cambridge Consultants’ headquarters, the signal was able to reach the village approximately 6km away.

A challenge when using this new white-space spectrum is avoiding interference with residents’ TV signals and professional radio microphones. To address this, Cambridge Consultants worked closely with the licensing authority and also developed a database engine that accurately pinpoints unused frequencies that are available to use in each locality.

The capability was further strengthened by Cambridge Consultants’ ‘spectral sensing’ cognitive radio technology platform called InCognito that can find the best spectrum to use and search the spectrum for channels that have interference.

Richard Traherne, head of wireless at Cambridge Consultants, said: ‘We believe that white space has the potential to change the way that people communicate, especially in rural areas. It has a wide range of applications, from healthcare to home working, and we expect to see these and other exciting applications emerge in the near future.’