Coming soon: Souped-up Wi-Fi with superb range and coverage

Coming soon: Souped-up Wi-Fi with superb range and coverage
Gardens By The Bay could see Super Wi-Fi connectivity under the new regulatory framework. TODAY file photo.
Published: 4:03 AM, June 17, 2014

SINGAPORE — Souped-up Wi-Fi networks at attractions such as Gardens by the Bay and Sentosa, and in high-demand areas such as the Central Business District. Traffic and energy management or even street-lighting control running on superior wireless communications.

These are some of the scenarios that have been tested as part of the Super Wi-Fi trials and they may soon become a reality after the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) announced yesterday that it would be releasing 180MHz of spectrum in TV White Space (TVWS). These unused television broadcasting airwaves will carry the Super Wi-Fi, which is better and more powerful than regular Wi-Fi.

The new framework, which takes effect in November, will lay out TVWS equipment requirements, how the equipment should communicate with geo-location databases and the spectrum channels to be made available, among others. The TVWS regulatory framework is necessary to cater to higher data consumption as more Internet-capable devices are launched, the IDA said, adding that Singapore is one of the first few countries in the world to implement such a regime.

Mr Leong Keng Thai, IDA’s deputy chief executive, said: “The TVWS regulatory framework is a step towards Singapore’s vision on being the world’s first Smart Nation. Regulators all over the world are exploring different ways to efficiently use spectrum, so that they can plan for their countries’ future needs.”

Trials conducted by the TVWS Pilot Group, which comprises Microsoft, StarHub and the Institute for Infocomm Research, among others, have demonstrated that the Super Wi-Fi signals run on low power and have a “superb” advantage in range and coverage, including penetrating obstacles such as buildings.

This has allowed some of the pilot projects to achieve wireless connectivity in areas where traditional technologies have difficulty reaching or where it would have been cost-prohibitive to do so.

The new technology is also fast to deploy — taking only about a week to be operational. It can be used for a wide range of applications, such as smart metering, security surveillance and urban hot spots, which could mean a more powerful Wireless@SG network.

The Super Wi-Fi trials have taken place in more than 40 varied project sites throughout the island, including the National University of Singapore, Jurong Shipyard and residential areas.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, said TVWS can be tapped to meet the demand for greater connectivity, as it is an underutilised spectrum resource. “The framework will encourage and facilitate businesses and service providers to develop new wireless services and applications or ... to supplement and enhance their existing networks. Consumers too will stand to benefit from the services provided over TV White Space, as they will have greater access to more options of wireless services such as Wi-Fi,” said Dr Yaacob yesterday at the Ministerial Forum on ICT (information and communications technology).

Mr Ryan Huang, an IG market strategist, said: “This is a good step forward as bandwidth consumption from smartphones in many places is outpacing the ability of network providers to grow their capacity.”

He said the advantages of TVWS paves the way for services that 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi find difficult to deliver.

“For consumers, the better penetration capabilities could help plug network blind spots at home or in the office. For telcos, this could potentially give them something to complement their current products by improving their coverage and reducing blind spots. There will also be new monetisation possibilities as TVWS will also help popularise smart grids, which telcos are likely to find a way to integrate into their services,” he added.