Feeds

White Space: The Next Big Thing in networks

Among the mystery pub antennas of the Silicon Fens

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Enough to go around

White space tech developer Neul estimates that an average of 120MHz is available across the country, dropping to almost nothing in some areas but twice that in others depending on the density of television transmitters and local geography.

The bands also offer the kind of building penetration needed to, for example, stream video from a firefighter's helmet to the fire engine outside. Such a network could be popped up in seconds and provide instant connectivity, and without having a national frequency reserved there's no need for a Big Bang approach: each fire brigade is free to innovate and see how it goes.

That piecemeal approach is one of the key advantages of white space. By allowing anyone to get involved, there's real opportunity for smaller companies to create – and sell – solutions that would otherwise require a national contract.

William Webb, late of Ofcom and now Neul's CTO, sees white space as a chaotic environment similar to an Ethernet network, as compared to the cellular operators' Token-Ring-like order. Token Ring was a more dependable networking system, but Ethernet's capacity and simplicity more than made up for its unpredictability.

Picture of Neul antenna and Arqiva monitoring kit

A Neul antenna atop a Cambridge pub, the mast on the left is Arqiva keeping a careful eye

Neul has erected eight nodes across Cambridge, all atop pubs, providing city-wide connectivity for machines that want to communicate over the company's Weightless protocol – which is designed to operate in such a chaotic environment. Weightless is a low-speed, low-power protocol designed for devices with a battery life of more than a decade. Neul will be launching a SIG to standardise Weightless at the end of September, and we'll be taking a closer look at the draft protocol later this week, but it has huge potential in remote data-gathering and fits nicely into the government's smart grid aspirations.

White space is ideally suited to such applications, certainly more so than the cellular networks which were designed and built for voice communications. We were told of one trial of connected meters, in the Heathrow area of London, which saw connectivity disappear as the snow came down and the voice circuits squeezed out data communications entirely – something which can't happen in white space.

There are still questions about potential interference, and who is going to run the master database tasked with preventing it. White space use is easy to demonstrate when no one else is doing it, but it will be harder when everyone and their brother is filling the white spaces with electromagnetic noise.

But from what we've seen, white space is going to be a revolutionary technology, both in the applications it enables immediately and the model it creates for the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
Drag queens: Oh, don't be so bitchy, Facebook! Let us use our stage names
Handbags at dawn over free content ad network's ID policy
Comcast exec: No, we haven't banned Tor. I use it. You're probably using it
Keep in mind if, say, your Onion browser craps out on Xfinity
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.