Lessons from Singapore in TV white spaces

3rd March 2015

Singapore 2015

Last month I attended ICANN 52 in the amazing city of Singapore.  As ever ICANN was a great opportunity to meet and greet the great and the good of the Internet community and participate in the complex conversation on Internet governance, which forms the backbone of our business at Nominet.

While I was there I took the opportunity to learn from what the city is doing with TV white spaces (TVWS). Singapore has been a pioneer in the innovative use of TVWS through the Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group (established back in 2012). The trip came at a perfect time, coinciding with Ofcom’s TV white space policy announcement, earlier the same month.

I visited the incredible Gardens by the Bay, the city’s 101-hectare futuristic botanical gardens; think of it as Kew Gardens meets Starfleet Headquarters. As well as the plants and buildings the site also boasts free Wi-Fi, which is delivered through TVWS.

The site has a single TVWS base station (shown in the photo below) which supplies connectivity to three locations across the gardens.

Singapore 2015

At each of the locations the TVWS signal is received and shared through standard Wi-Fi access points, which are almost but not quite camouflaged into the surrounding environment. See if you can spot the router in the picture below. The reason for the ‘not-quite-camouflage’ is so they can show the system to interested people, like me.

Singapore 2015

The deployment is a great example of TVWS in action, showing that the characteristics of the TVWS frequencies can provide connectivity in areas which otherwise would be hard to reach by other fixed or wireless technologies.

Nominet is using TVWS to enable a different use case: an Internet of Things (IoT) application, the Oxford Flood Network.

It was interesting to discover from the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), the Regulator of Singapore, that TVWS is also being used to enable smart metering IoT applications in other parts of the city. I’ll have to save that for my next visit to Singapore.