TV White Spaces Spectrum: An Update from Singapore

Earlier this year, the Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group (SWSPG) launched a significant pilot of wireless broadband using TV White Spaces (TVWS). As part of the momentum of this pilot, the SWSPG convened a one day workshop in Singapore on Oct. 10 that brought together technology and business leaders from around the world to discuss recent progress deploying wireless broadband solutions using TV White Spaces. While participants came from around the world and from across the public and private sectors, attendance and interest from Singapore and the Asia Pacific region were especially encouraging. I was fortunate enough to attend the event, and was truly impressed with the progress and creativity demonstrated by the pilot participants in developing the potential surrounding TV White Spaces.

It was clear that Singapore in particular understands the importance of and correlation between the digital infrastructure and economic growth, and is determined to fully leverage ICT technologies to turn Singapore into a global leading Smart City and a data hub for the region’s digital economy. Simultaneously, leaders here are keen to resolve spectrum scarcity by transforming outmoded regulations that tie spectrum to the exclusive use of a single licensee or a single set of applications.

Over the past few years, efforts to find a solution to this problem have multiplied. The ongoing TV White Spaces pilot in Singapore is a prime example of how attacking a problem from an unexpected direction can deliver advanced and effective solutions with real–life impact. Indeed, the topics at the meeting included examples of new business models that could emerge and new audiences that could be served by this technology. We also explored the potential for TV White Spaces as a “game changer” for rural or remote broadband access in countries such as the Philippines, South Africa and many other countries that share similar economic and terrain challenges.

My colleagues and I here at Microsoft have been working on this technology for many years now – through many concepts, ideas and prototypes, to regulatory trials and finally to commercially focused pilots. In addition to the ongoing trial in Singapore, we have led other successful implementations and demonstrations of TV White Spaces. Our work in the United Kingdom (with the city of Cambridge) and recent demonstrations with the Asia Development Bank in the Philippines and at the United Nations sponsored RIO+20 Summit in Brazil are just a few of the many successes we have seen with TV White Spaces. Moving from experiment to trial to pilot, and seeing the progress on the ongoing pilots by our partners here in Singapore, including StarHub, I2R, Neul, Adaptrum, is inspiring.

Today’s meetings emphasized for me, and all the participants, that what we are seeing in Singapore is the beginning of the next wave of TV White Spaces applications along with the movement towards full scale commercial deployment and a vibrant ecosystem of companies keen to make this spectrum technology a success. Microsoft has been fortunate to be able to work with many industry partners, as well as regulators such as IDA, Ofcom in the U.K. and the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. to begin an industry-wide dialogue to find the best way forward through standards development and regulatory reviews.

This is an area where the industry cannot succeed on its own. We need to work hand-in-hand with our regulators and policy makers to ensure we can create a supportive environment for the emerging spectrum ecosystem to thrive.

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