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UK White Space Broadband Wireless Trial Speeds Fail to Impress

Posted Thursday, March 29th, 2012 (9:53 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 1,598)
wireless mast

Early feedback from BT’s trial of ‘White Space‘ (IEEE 802.22) wireless broadband technology on the Isle of Bute suggests that the service, which delivers internet access by making use of the unused radio spectrum that exists between Digital TV channels, still has a lot of problems to overcome, not least in terms of its sporadic performance.

In theory the 802.22 specification suggests that download speeds of up to 22Mbps per channel (Megabits per second) could be possible and some UK trials claim to have reached around 16Mbps, which is incidentally a long way off the UK’s chosen definition for superfast broadband (24Mbps+).

But separate reports from both PC Pro and the BBC today found that the service, which is complicated to deliver due to the ever changing spectrum and the risk of causing interference to DTV services, could struggle to deliver its top speeds.

Chris Gibbs of BT’s Openreach said:

Although it has the same characteristics as copper – the further you go the worse the signal gets – it goes a bit further, and that’s the advantage.”

At present BT’s implementation claims to be offering speeds of up to 10Mbps per channel, which will soon be upgraded to 15Mbps, but this reduces down to a maximum of just 4Mbps when 6km away from the transmitter. New tests at various points on the Isle of Bute showed speeds varying between just 1.5Mbps and 6Mbps (the latter was recorded within sight of BT’s mast).

In fairness White Space solutions are designed to target the last 10% of the UK where the government has so far only committed to a minimum download speed of just 2Mbps for all (Universal Service Commitment), which is a very low target. In addition White Space tech appears to deliver strong upload speed that is, in some cases, symmetrical. That makes it good for video conferencing and other upload dependent tasks.

Ofcom is currently preparing to consult on a Draft Statutory Instrument for making white space devices licence exempt, which could result in the first commercial UK services arrive sometime next year. But before that BT will be working to improve its performance and must also find an economically viable way of delivering the service, otherwise it would be difficult to support.

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5 Responses
  1. Deduction

    More problems than it is worth and poor performance just as i said it would be when they announced it.

  2. zemadeiran

    What they should have done was convert completely to iptv instead of dtv.

    Seems logical (correct me if I am wrong) to use the the whole of the dtv spectrum for ip services.

    Can someone please chime in here and spell out the pro’s and cons?

    • They couldn’t do that because the necessary telecoms infrastructure to support it for the whole UK won’t be in place for quite awhile, especially so outside of urban areas. On top of that broadband operators will only just be getting to grips with IPTV this year.

      Going IPTV only might be viable in 10 years time (oh god I feel old thinking about that) but DTV will be around for awhile.

  3. White space delivers 2bit per hertz and can do a bit more with MIMO etc. There is a lot of white space in the UK. 30 to 40 Megabits per sector or 120 Mbps from a base station is a lot of new capacity per small cell. Look for our report next month at the Cambridge White Space event.

  4. Deduction

    Too bad they cant figure out how to use it without causing other issues.

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