Cambridge becomes UK's first White Space city as trials declared a success

The UK White Space consortium has declared its technology trials a success in Cambridge today. Some of tech's biggest names teamed up to equip Silicon Fen with Neul's "Weightless" broadband gear -- managing to get an 8Mbps data service out to the residents of rural Orwell. While great for those who can't get fixed line services, the consortium's also emphasized the benefits for Governments who could use an internet of things and cellphone networks, which can offload excess traffic in times of need. All that's required is for Ofcom to double-check the claims that it won't interfere with other wireless transmission formats and deliver its official blessing. Let's hope the Government study doesn't turn up anything unwarranted, as we'd hate to see a British version of LightSquared.

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Neul launches world's first city-wide white space network

Highlights Smart City use cases by demonstrating the world's first smart meter reading over white space

Cambridge, UK, 25th April 2012 – Neul, the world leader in technologies for the Internet of the Things, today announced the deployment in Cambridge of the world's first city-wide, fully-functional wireless network in white space, enabling a whole host of Smart City applications. To demonstrate this network Neul, in collaboration with Bglobal Metering, is today, showcasing the world's first-ever smart electricity meter reading over a white space network. This is the first step towards smart electricity grids that will allow electricity supply to be more efficiently matched to real-time demand.

White space is the unused and underused parts of the wireless spectrum. For example, around the world many TV channels are left vacant in most locations. Neul's technology opens up these channels and will also allow underused frequencies within other UHF licensed and unlicensed bands to be used efficiently for wireless communication.

Neul's network builds upon the successful completion of the first phase of the Cambridge White Space Consortium's network, also announced today. The Consortium's phase one network used Neul's equipment and cloud interface, together with the Weightless communications standard, to prove that its white space network co-exists perfectly with televisions and wireless microphones without causing interference or disruption. Neul's network will now build upon that foundation for commercial trials later this year with full roll out anticipated in 2013.

In addition to the smart grid, Neul's network opens up several fascinating possibilities for the Smart City of the future, enabling smarter transport and traffic management, city lighting and other municipal services.

"In a world of Smart Phones and mobile broadband it is easy to imagine that wireless connectivity has now been solved," commented Glenn Collinson, co-founder and Board Member at Neul. "It hasn't. Mobile broadband is too expensive for 'things' in the Smart City. Also mobile broadband means battery powered devices would need changing far too often. And all those sensors would load the cellular networks to such a level that there would be little network capacity left.

"Mobile networks are great for people but terrible for machines. At Neul we are today demonstrating that the Smart City can happen now with a new wireless standard called 'Weightless' specifically designed for embedding in electricity and gas meters, air quality sensors, recycling points, street lighting, parking spaces, traffic lights and ... well ... 'things' rather than people."

"In the last few years we've heard a great deal about white space and the opportunities it will bring. With many countries approving the necessary legislation, the launch of the world's first city-wide white space network coupled with the demonstration of a smart meter reading over white space is a major milestone towards the realisation of these opportunities." commented Will Strauss, Chief Analyst, Forward Concepts. "Technologies available today simply cannot realistically deal with the cost, power and propagation requirements of many elements of the Smart City. This sharp movement towards a world of ubiquitous machine-to-machine communication has huge implications and the industry will be watching closely."

Neul's network comprises

Five base stations around the city of Cambridge.
One base station in a rural community south of Cambridge.
A cloud-hosted network Operational & Management Centre (OMC) that efficiently and securely manages the communications between the internet and the 'Things'.
Support for multiple geo-location databases that ensure wireless microphones, TV transmission and reception is not disrupted.


CAMBRIDGE, England - 25 April 2012 - Following more than 10 months of comprehensive testing in urban and rural areas in and around Cambridge, England, the Cambridge TV White Spaces Consortium, which comprises leading international and UK technology and media companies, has successfully demonstrated the potential of television white spaces. The consortium explored and measured a range of applications - rural wireless broadband, urban pop-up coverage and the emerging "machine-to-machine" communication - and found TV white spaces can be successfully utilised to help satisfy the rapidly accelerating demand for wireless connectivity. The consortium members recommend that the UK regulator Ofcom complete its development of the enabling regulatory framework in a manner that protects licensees from harmful interference and encourages innovation and deployment.

The consortium includes Adaptrum Inc., Alcatel-Lucent, Arqiva, BBC, BSkyB, BT, Cambridge Consultants, CRFS, CSR plc., Digital TV Group (DTG), Microsoft Corp, Neul, Nokia, Samsung, Spectrum Bridge Inc., The Technology Partnership plc. (TTP) and Virgin Media, and it demonstrated unprecedented partnership and collaboration while working closely with Ofcom to ensure that this technology can now be harnessed through a regulatory framework to benefit consumers and further innovation in the UK and beyond.

The consortium issued this statement: "With the rapid rise of mobile broadband and the desire to enable remote areas to enjoy the benefits of broadband, the need for more efficient spectrum use has never been greater. The UK is playing a leading role by exploring the use of licence-exempt access to TV white spaces and developing a model regulatory framework. None of this would have been possible without the support of Ofcom - and the constructive and unprecedented collaboration of the companies involved - to progress this groundbreaking mode of spectrum access."

Commenting today on the TV White Spaces trial, Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said, "I welcome the success to date of the Cambridge White Spaces Trial. Leading innovators from the UK and beyond have demonstrated the potential that television white spaces can have for meeting the UK's broadband needs. Developments such as this endorse the leadership position that the UK can take in enabling more efficient use of spectrum by opening up an array of opportunities for wireless applications for consumers and businesses alike. I find the idea of using white space devices to deliver broadband to rural communities, or to expand the range and quality of urban Wi-Fi hotspots, exciting. This can form a significant contribution to our thinking as we consider how to maximise the value of the spectrum below 1 GHz. I look forward to hearing the next chapter of your progress."

Trial Implementation and Results
The trial analysis found Cambridge has significant television white spaces capacity - 20 white spaces channels corresponding to 160 megahertz in total, of which 13 (104 megahertz) were allowed in the test licence from Ofcom - which can be used to help augment existing broadband networks, extend broadband access to rural areas and allow for machine-to-machine communications. Further, geolocation databases, provided by Microsoft and Spectrum Bridge, proved a reliable way to control frequency use by the white spaces radios and to quickly adapt to changes in spectrum usage by the licensed users.

City centre coverage. The consortium set up base stations on the north side of the Cambridge city centre in four pubs and a theatre, aiming to provide widespread coverage, including "pop-up" Wi-Fi hotspots. The base stations were connected to dual omnidirectional wide-band antennas mounted on rooftops (radios and antennas provided by Neul), enabling considerably further coverage than could have been achieved with conventional Wi-Fi, in 2.4GHz, for example. The tests showed that TV white spaces can help extend broadband access and offload mobile broadband data traffic. These hotspots can enable users to enjoy data-intensive services such as online video provided by BBC iPlayer and Sky Go during peak usage times, when additional capacity and wider reach is needed.

Rural connectivity. A base station was installed at TTP's headquarters in Melbourn, a rural community south of Cambridge, and linked to a household in Orwell. The residents benefited from radical improvements in their broadband service, up to 8Mbps net speed achieved over 5.5km links, within an 8 megahertz bandwidth, using a modified, prototype version of the Neul Weightless technology. TTP anticipates it would be possible to achieve speeds greater than 20Mbps from its headquarters to Orwell using radios further optimised for rural broadband connectivity while occupying a single, dedicated TV white space channel.

Machine-to-machine. Industry forecasts estimate there will be more than 50 billion connected devices by 2020, with a good proportion of these communicating and sharing information wirelessly, enabling a wide range of applications. As such, the trial explored machine-to-machine communication, often referred to as the Internet of Things. Utilising the available white spaces, an application developed by BT and Neul sent an alert message to the city council when city dustbins were full and needed emptying. TV white spaces are uniquely placed to unlock the potential promised for the Internet of Things.

Location-based services. Nokia and Spectrum Bridge developed a location-based service application that was deployed in the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, one of Europe's leading aircraft museums. As museum visitors move around the collection, they can receive prompts on their smart mobile device informing them about the items they can see and offering a rich array of related content.

Lab and field measurements. In addition to the implementation of trial networks, Arqiva, BBC Research and Development, CSR and CRFS spearheaded considerable laboratory and field measurements to better define the parameters needed to develop the regulatory framework required to enable the use of white space devices. The results of this work are being provided to the relevant UK and European regulatory bodies. In addition, the BBC developed the first version of a UK-wide database, which illustrates the typical availability that might be expected for TV white space devices following the completion of the UK digital television switchover.