LONDON – Neul Ltd., a startup company pioneering the use of white space radio, has set up a city-wide network in Cambridge, England, to demonstrate smart meter reading and other applications.
The network set up follows on from 10 months of testing in urban and rural areas around Cambridge by the the Cambridge TV White Spaces Consortium, which comprises leading international and UK technology and media companies.The consortium includes Alcatel-Lucent, BBC, BSkyB, BT, Cambridge Consultants, CSR, Microsoft, Neul, Nokia, Samsung, TTP and Virgin Media.
White space is name given to the unused and underused parts of the wireless spectrum. For example, around the world many TV channels are left vacant in most locations to prevent TV signal to TV signal interference. 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. This can be used for Internet of Things (IoT) communications and applications such as meter reading and machine monitoring as well as for rural broadband delivery.
To demonstrate this network Neul, in collaboration with Bglobal Metering, is demonstrating smart electricity meter reading over a white space network. This is a step towards smart electricity grids that will allow electricity supply to be more efficiently matched to real-time demand. In addition to the smart grid, Neul's networking technology opens up possibilities for smart transport and traffic management, city lighting and other municipal services.
Neul's network comprises five basestations around the city of Cambridgr and one basestation 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 and support for the geo-location databases that ensure wireless microphones, TV transmission and reception are not disrupted. The network operates using the Weightless standard, which is being developed by Neul and other interested parties.
Although the network still operates under an experimental RF license in the UK Neul is anticipating commercial trials in Cambridge in 2012 and a full roll out of the technology in 2013. Neul is already selling equipment into the United States for use in rural broadband provision using white space radio.
Neul argues that the explosion of use cases for the Internet of Things requires dedicated communications channels and standards to cope with high numbers of user nodes and low cost and low maintenance requirements.
"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," said Glenn Collinson, cofounder and director at Neul, in a statement.
Neul, founded in 2010 by some of the original founders of Cambridge Silicon Radio, is included in version 13.0 of the Silicon 60 list of emerging startups published by EE Times. Neul joined the list in version 12.5 published in April 2011.
Clarification: in principle, Ch 52-69 were taken away from TV, with the digital transition. However in fact, since new users of the 700 MHz band have found that adjacent channel interference with Ch 51 TV is or could be a problem, they have petitioned to have TV move off Ch 51 as well.
Search under "TV reverse auction," or pay attention to articles about this, to see what is being done to OTA TV these days.
White space devices are supposed to use two methods to determine if they can use a given frequency channel. One is a database, location-oriented. And the other is signal sensing. So if a licensed user comes on and takes one of the white space channels, the white space devices would have to vacate that channel.
Our household happens to use only OTA television for TV, so of course I'm all in favor of it surviving and thriving. And I have also witnessed plenty of new program channels on the air, since June 12, 2009. But the FCC, under the current leadership, thinks that wireless broadband is all there is for the future. And they're insisting on taking away another 1/3+ of the spectrum from OTA TV, after just having taken away Ch 51-69 with the digital transition, and Ch 70-83 previously. If they get their way, all channels above Ch 30 will be taken away from TV. So, not a good prospect for the future of OTA TV.
Furthermore, handset manufacturers and cell service providers do not see it in their financial interest to incorporate mobile TV receivers in their handsets, to receive OTA TV, if they can sell their own TV service like Vcast. So even that aspect makes OTA TV's survival somewhat iffy.
I'm curious as to what happens when a new station comes on air using the previously available "white space". Do the devices somehow sense that and change frequency or is there a receiver and controller in the device that enable it to be switched to another frequency? Also, I'm not sure that OTA television is undergoing a demise since I see more on air stations locally than I used to and with them now transmitting digital, we see excellent pictures over the air.
Oh, I guess my real point was, even in spite of this, I don't think this white space idea will be trouble-free, for the reasons I suggested.
On the other hand, it could help to accelerate the demise of free over the air television. If TV web sites carry free TV anyway, perhaps that will become the trend anyway.
Yes, in the US anyway. A big part of this effort to use white spaces is to explain what the white space devices have to do before they can assume the space is free. This is controlled by a location database and by signal detection, down to something like -115 dBm.
IEEE 802.22 goes into this. It's available for free now, at the IEEE standards web site.
In fact, 802.22.1 is a separate document devoted to answering your question.
Seems to me that we've been seeing one company after another claiming that they have fully mastered this TV white space use problem, and yet the same laws of physics have always applied. When I read articles or press releases that give the motivation for using white spaces, but offer no details of how the supposedly new scheme is implemented, I remain skeptical.
The meter reading task might work well, depending how it is implemented. If the electric meter transmits only for a short time, when queried, the disruption to nearby TV receivers might be very tolerable.
The fundamental problems remain. First, there is the inverse square law. The power density created by a close-by, low power transmitter can be much greater than the power density of that distant, high powered TV transmitter. And TV receivers out there have only so much selectivity for adjacent channels or even other combinations, such as N +/- 2 and even further. These selectivity figures can be as low as 30 dB or sometimes less. The FCC knows this, because they have done a survey.
So when these factors are not mentioned, but only the (rather obvious) motivation for use of someone else's spectrum, I'm left wondering what the whole truth is.
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