UK White Space Trial: Some Unimpressed

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Early feedback from British Telecom’s White Space trial (IEEE 802.22) on the Isle of Bute, left some unimpressed with its speed and performance. The pilot programme on the Isle of Bute involves a transmitter at a tiny exchange near the community of Kilchattan Bay, from which a broadband signal is transmitted to 10 homes participating in the trial.

In theory the 802.22 specification suggests that download speeds of up to 22Mbps per channel could be possible. Some UK trials claim to have reached around 16Mbps. But White Spaces use only a 6 MHz channel, not the 20 MHz channel common in WiFi, so speeds should be expected to be at least 1/3rd the speed. Similar to WiFi, performance drops off sharply with distance.

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.

According to PC Pro:

“BT said it could offer up to 4Mbits/sec as far as 6km from the transmitter. The highest speed we achieved on location was 6.2Mbits/sec – and that was in sight of the mast. A point 6km from the transmitter had much slower speeds; we saw a top speed of 1.5Mbits/sec at the time, but BT claimed it has regularly achieved speeds of 3.5Mbits/sec.” 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.”

The BBC reports:

“After a few hitches, it seemed to work pretty well, with sound and video coming across then network. The speeds on offer, however, are far from spectacular. BT says it can deliver around 10Mbps or more, but at the moment it’s giving users download speeds of between 4 and 8Mbps.

My own tests showed the network delivering only around 3Mbps – but then the upload speeds were about the same, making video conferencing eminently feasible. During the trial, the available capacity is being tweaked between upload and download to see what works best for consumers.”

BT will expand it’s existing White Space trials in Cambridge, and on the Isle of Bute, by conducting a further trial in Cornwall.

“White Space” technology is also being tested in the United States. Rural users may benefit most from the promise of White Spaces transmission. It has a longer range than most phone-based DSL which poops out after 3 miles or so. It also travels further than WiFi or cellular signals, and may provide a lower cost alternative to satellite broadband. Multiple channels can be ganged together to increase speed and the number of simultaneous users.

Unlicensed white space radios would automatically find unused VHF/UHF spectrum and utilize it for multi-point communications, much like long distance Wi-Fi.

In other UK wireless broadband news, the chances of an early 4G rollout in the UK are receding, reports PC Pro, following Ofcom’s decision to give rival networks more time to respond to Everything Everywhere’s proposal to get a service running later this year.

The UK’s 4G auctions will include the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands. The spectrum auction is not expected to start until the end of this year, with services perhaps a year later. Everything Everywhere, a joint venture between T-Mobile and France Telecom, hopes to reuse its 2G spectrum for 4G services in the 1,800MHz range.

The UK government aims to raise £5 billion ($8 billion) from their forthcoming spectrum auction. The UK will auction 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz for the equivalent of three quarters of the mobile spectrum that is in use today. Ofcom has delayed the auction to Q4 2012 at the earliest, with a strong likelihood of the auction being delayed until 2013. The government says they are committed to providing universal access to broadband throughout the UK, with at least 90 per cent of the population covered by broadband by 2015 (Google Map).

Telcordia and Spectrum Bridge are part of a group of 10 that the FCC conditionally approved to provide white-space database management services.

Related Dailywireless articles include; UK Broadband: TD-LTE at 3.5GHz , 02: Olympic WiFi Cloud, UK Gets Free Public WiFi, Europe’s Digital Divide Auction, IEEE to Enhance White Space Standard, Microsoft Announced Narrow Channel Whitespace, FCC Authorizes White Space Service in Wilmington, FCC Gets Unlicensed White Spaces in Payroll Tax Bill, White Space Show Down, Genachowski Lobbies for Unlicensed White Spaces, Universal Service Reform Passed, Microsoft Announced Narrow Channel Whitespace, FCC Authorizes White Space Service in Wilmington, White Space Legislation Goes Dark, White Space War, Bills to Kill Unlicensed White Space?, White Space Trial Completed, White Space Trialed, Huawei to Trial White Space TD-LTE, NTIA “Finds” 1.5 GHz of Federal Spectrum, UK Delays 4G Auction Ofcom: White Spaces by 2013, UK Gets Free Public WiFi, Europe’s Digital Divide Auction,

Posted by Sam Churchill on Thursday, March 29th, 2012 at 8:35 am .

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