Nominet and connectivity specialist Broadway Partners have begun the next phase of their joint roll-out of broadband services in the vacant TV white space (TVWS) spectrum, serving some of the many isolated communities along the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland.
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The latest roll-out builds on previous successes of TVWS-powered wireless broadband services on the Isle of Arran, and an ongoing pilot project in Llanarth in Wales.
TVWS broadband uses the vacant gaps – or white space – in the radio spectrum that was formerly used to provide a ‘buffer’ in between analogue television channels. Since the UK completed the switchover to digital television, this buffer is no longer necessary and so the spectrum can be pressed into service for other purposes.
It is considered ideal for wireless broadband services because it operates at lower frequency, therefore it is relatively unaffected by physical obstacles in the environment, such as buildings and trees.
The project is powered by Nominet’s geo-location spectrum database management services, which manages the available white space spectrum to ensure devices do not interfere with digital television broadcasts.
Broadway plans to roll out a superfast broadband service to around 2,000 homes and businesses around Loch Ness, one of Scotland’s major tourist draws, thanks in part to the area’s famous hypothetical resident – although neither Nominet nor Broadway would speculate on whether or not the Loch Ness Monster will sign up.
“This project is particularly exciting because, while virtually everybody has heard of Loch Ness, few outside the area realise just how poorly served it is for broadband,” said Broadway founder and director Michael Armitage.
While residents of the largest village in the area, Drumnadrochit, do have access to an Openreach fibre cabinet and can receive a service that meets the government’s definition of superfast, more outlying properties tend to have poor connectivity, with some receiving no service at all.
Russell Haworth, CEO of Nominet, said: “The beauty of TV white space lies in its ability to quickly bridge connectivity holes like this and add value directly into the communities and businesses of the area, and boost commerce in the region. We’re delighted to be a part of the project and really look forward to putting our technology to the test.”
Nominet CTO Simon McCalla added: “Few places represent more of a challenge for deploying fixed broadband infrastructure than the Scottish Highlands, and we’re delighted to be able to put TV white space to the test in this way.
“It proves the value of spectrum sharing, which is key to enabling us to deliver this kind of service in a responsive and effective way,” he added.
TVWS broadband is not, however, without its critics, with some detractors claiming that using up valuable and scarce spectrum to provide a limited – albeit much-needed service – could damage the potential for the future roll-out of 5G mobile broadband, which in the long-term will provide an even faster service.