05 September 2012

Industry-led Effort by Microsoft, StarHub and I²R to Introduce Next Generation Wireless Connectivity to Singapore and the Region

Singapore, 5 September 2012 — Microsoft Singapore, StarHub, and the Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R), the founding members of the Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group (SWSPG), today announced the first series of commercial pilot deployments of TV White Spaces (TVWS) smart radio technology that could introduce a new class of wireless connectivity to Singapore, putting the Lion City at the forefront of a new wave of wireless services innovation and Smart City applications.

SWSPG is also announcing six new members today, including:
- Neul Ltd, a Cambridge, U.K.-based TVWS Solutions and Services Company as an additional founding member;
- Adaptrum, a Silicon Valley, U.S.-based TVWS technology and solution provider, whose TV White Space System ACRS 1.0 was certified by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and commercially deployed in the U.S.;
- Power Automation Pte Ltd. (a joint venture between Singapore Power and Siemens) who is a leading provider of smart grid solutions;
- Singapore Island Country Club, a prestigious golf and country club in Singapore, with a wide range of sporting, lifestyle and dining facilities and services;
- Spectrum Bridge, Inc, a developer of spectrum management systems and a provider of spectrum sharing solutions, whose TVWS platform was the first to obtain Federal Communications Commission (FCC) certification in the U.S. and
- ZDW Systems Pte Ltd, an equipment manufacturer and solution provider for wireless communication coverage enhancement networks.

I2R is one of the pioneers in the development of TVWS globally. Dr Tan Geok Leng, Acting Executive Director of I2R said, “Our roots in TVWS dates back in 2006 when we participated in the first IEEE TVWS standards. Subsequently, we submitted a TVWS prototype to FCC for trial in 2008 together with a few other organizations. The trial gave FCC the hard data it needed for it to justify opening up TVWS in the US later in the same year. As A*STAR’s infocomm and media value creating research institute, we are extremely excited to see the baton being passed to Singapore now under the umbrella of the Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group. We hope to see TVWS being deployed in many other applications.”

Globally, explosive growth of wireless data traffic is putting a severe strain on today’s mobile and Wi-Fi network infrastructure, signalling the need for more efficient management of spectrum.  Spectrum resources are finite and higher demands can only be met through policy and technology innovations that enable more efficient use.  TV White Spaces radio is one such innovation that turns unused TV broadcast frequency bands (“TV White Spaces”) into premium wireless broadband delivery channels with a set of highly desirable attributes, including the ability to travel over longer distances and penetrate more obstacles than technologies using higher frequencies, such as Wi-Fi. Sometimes referred to as “Super Wi-Fi”, this can translate to better coverage, lower power consumption, and reduced network costs.

Mr Mock Pak Lum, Chief Technology Officer of StarHub, said: "Radio frequency spectrum is a scarce commodity. There will not be sufficient spectrum to support the exponential growth in the wireless broadband traffic we are seeing today and going forward. TVWS offer significantly more bandwidth capacity and good penetration characteristics as it is in the sub-1GHz band. We see good potential in TVWS and are studying how we can deploy for backhaul and Super Wi-Fi."

Building on the success of TVWS technology trials in the U.S., U.K., and other countries, including Singapore’s Cognitive Radio Venues (“CRAVE”) trials spearheaded by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), a group of leading industry pioneers formed the SWSPG in April 2012 to lead TVWS commercialization efforts locally and to promote Singapore as a leading innovation zone for TVWS applications and services innovation. (Annex A: Background on SWSPG.)

Through commercial pilot projects, SWSPG members will explore how TVWS technology can supplement existing wireless infrastructure, maximize spectrum efficiency, and deliver innovative applications that will benefit consumers and businesses. With these deployments, SWSPG will also be able to gather white spaces data and provide insightful information to IDA as well as other regulators that are implementing regulatory frameworks for adopting TVWS in their countries.

“Given the increase in the use of wireless broadband by consumers and businesses, leading to a rise in demand for spectrum,  IDA had started looking into TVWS as early as 2009 and subsequently launched the CRAVE trials for the industry in 2011. IDA welcomes industry-led efforts such as the TVWS commercial pilots by the Singapore White Space Pilot Group. We will continue to support and provide regulatory guidance to industry initiatives looking at new and innovative ways to deploy TVWS,” said Ms Aileen Chia, Deputy Director-General (Telecoms & Post), Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

With the support of IDA, the first three commercial pilot projects announced today by SWSPG will demonstrate the characteristics and benefits of TVWS solutions in different environments and with different usage applications – from penetrating dense vegetation and challenging terrain to enable wireless connectivity, to providing long-range wireless Internet coverage across the waters at the Singapore harbour, and to supporting smart grid applications that will impact the million households in Singapore.

During a media briefing today, Adaptrum also provided a ‘live’ demonstration using its TVWS technology where a StarHub femto-cell and Wi-Fi access point was enabled from the Microsoft Singapore office at One Marina Boulevard, over a distance of 1.2km, delivering 14 Mbps data to the Verve Pizza Bar next to Marina Bay Sands.

These commercial pilots are conducted under a test licence from IDA and utilize a TVWS Geo-location Database developed by Microsoft, with the advice and inputs from IDA, for the Singapore pilot projects.  

Said Mr Michael Thatcher, Chief Technology Officer, Public Sector, Microsoft Asia Pacific: “The Singapore TVWS pilots are very timely with the on-going digital TV transition and rising trends of the Internet of Things and Smart City regionally. For several years now, we have partnered with regulators and industry leaders worldwide on innovative ways to manage spectrum for better and more affordable broadband wireless connectivity. TVWS has great potential to create new growth opportunities for the Singapore ICT ecosystem. As one of the region’s first to implement TVWS pilots, this also demonstrates Singapore’s leadership in embracing new ICT approaches, as it transforms into an Intelligent Nation and Global City.”   

SWSPG expects more members to join the group in the coming months and greater collaboration for more commercial pilot deployments. Upcoming SWSPG events include a full-day TVWS workshop for industry players, to be held in association with the International Institute of Communications (IIC) Annual Conference on October 10, 2012 in Singapore.