Industry-led Effort by Microsoft, StarHub and I²R to Introduce Next Generation Wireless Connectivity to Singapore and the Region
Singapore — September 5, 2012 — Microsoft Singapore, StarHub, and the Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R), the founding members of the Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group (SWSPG), today announced the first series of commercial pilot deployments of TV White Spaces (TVWS) smart radio technology that could introduce a new class of wireless connectivity to Singapore, putting the Lion City at the forefront of a new wave of wireless services innovation and Smart City applications.
SWSPG is also announcing six new members today, including:
- Neul Ltd, a Cambridge, U.K.-based TVWS Solutions and Services Company as an additional founding member;
- Adaptrum, a Silicon Valley, U.S.-based TVWS technology and solution provider, whose TV White Space System ACRS 1.0 was certified by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and commercially deployed in the U.S.;
- Power Automation Pte Ltd. (a joint venture between Singapore Power and Siemens) who is a leading provider of smart grid solutions;
- Singapore Island Country Club, a prestigious golf and country club in Singapore, with a wide range of sporting, lifestyle and dining facilities and services;
- Spectrum Bridge, Inc, a developer of spectrum management systems and a provider of spectrum sharing solutions, whose TVWS platform was the first to obtain Federal Communications Commission (FCC) certification in the U.S. and
- ZDW Systems Pte Ltd, an equipment manufacturer and solution provider for wireless communication coverage enhancement networks.
I2R is one of the pioneers in the development of TVWS globally. Dr. Tan Geok Leng, Acting Executive Director of I2R said, “Our roots in TVWS dates back in 2006 when we participated in the first IEEE TVWS standards. Subsequently, we submitted a TVWS prototype to FCC for trial in 2008 together with a few other organizations. The trial gave FCC the hard data it needed for it to justify opening up TVWS in the US later in the same year. As A*STAR’s infocomm and media value creating research institute, we are extremely excited to see the baton being passed to Singapore now under the umbrella of the Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group. We hope to see TVWS being deployed in many other applications.”
Globally, explosive growth of wireless data traffic is putting a severe strain on today’s mobile and Wi-Fi network infrastructure, signalling the need for more efficient management of spectrum. Spectrum resources are finite and higher demands can only be met through policy and technology innovations that enable more efficient use. TV White Spaces radio is one such innovation that turns unused TV broadcast frequency bands (“TV White Spaces”) into premium wireless broadband delivery channels with a set of highly desirable attributes, including the ability to travel over longer distances and penetrate more obstacles than technologies using higher frequencies, such as Wi-Fi. Sometimes referred to as “Super Wi-Fi”, this can translate to better coverage, lower power consumption, and reduced network costs.
Mr. Mock Pak Lum, Chief Technology Officer of StarHub, said: "Radio frequency spectrum is a scarce commodity. There will not be sufficient spectrum to support the exponential growth in the wireless broadband traffic we are seeing today and going forward. TVWS offer significantly more bandwidth capacity and good penetration characteristics as it is in the sub-1GHz band. We see good potential in TVWS and are studying how we can deploy for backhaul and Super Wi-Fi."
Building on the success of TVWS technology trials in the U.S., U.K., and other countries, including Singapore’s Cognitive Radio Venues (“CRAVE”) trials spearheaded by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), a group of leading industry pioneers formed the SWSPG in April 2012 to lead TVWS commercialization efforts locally and to promote Singapore as a leading innovation zone for TVWS applications and services innovation. (Annex A: Background on SWSPG.)
Through commercial pilot projects, SWSPG members will explore how TVWS technology can supplement existing wireless infrastructure, maximize spectrum efficiency, and deliver innovative applications that will benefit consumers and businesses. With these deployments, SWSPG will also be able to gather white spaces data and provide insightful information to IDA as well as other regulators that are implementing regulatory frameworks for adopting TVWS in their countries.
“Given the increase in the use of wireless broadband by consumers and businesses, leading to a rise in demand for spectrum, IDA had started looking into TVWS as early as 2009 and subsequently launched the CRAVE trials for the industry in 2011. IDA welcomes industry-led efforts such as the TVWS commercial pilots by the Singapore White Space Pilot Group. We will continue to support and provide regulatory guidance to industry initiatives looking at new and innovative ways to deploy TVWS,” said Ms Aileen Chia, Deputy Director-General (Telecoms & Post), Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.
With the support of IDA, the first three commercial pilot projects announced today by SWSPG will demonstrate the characteristics and benefits of TVWS solutions in different environments and with different usage applications – from penetrating dense vegetation and challenging terrain to enable wireless connectivity, to providing long-range wireless Internet coverage across the waters at the Singapore harbour, and to supporting smart grid applications that will impact the million households in Singapore.
During a media briefing today, Adaptrum also provided a ‘live’ demonstration using its TVWS technology where a StarHub femto-cell and Wi-Fi access point was enabled from the Microsoft Singapore office at One Marina Boulevard, over a distance of 1.2km, delivering 14 Mbps data to the Verve Pizza Bar next to Marina Bay Sands.
These commercial pilots are conducted under a test licence from IDA and utilize a TVWS Geo-location Database developed by Microsoft, with the advice and inputs from IDA, for the Singapore pilot projects. (Annex B: Information on the three pilot projects)
Said Mr. Michael Thatcher, Chief Technology Officer, Public Sector, Microsoft Asia Pacific: “The Singapore TVWS pilots are very timely with the on-going digital TV transition and rising trends of the Internet of Things and Smart City regionally. For several years now, we have partnered with regulators and industry leaders worldwide on innovative ways to manage spectrum for better and more affordable broadband wireless connectivity. TVWS has great potential to create new growth opportunities for the Singapore ICT ecosystem. As one of the region’s first to implement TVWS pilots, this also demonstrates Singapore’s leadership in embracing new ICT approaches, as it transforms into an Intelligent Nation and Global City.”
SWSPG expects more members to join the group in the coming months and greater collaboration for more commercial pilot deployments. Upcoming SWSPG events include a full-day TVWS workshop for industry players, to be held in association with the International Institute of Communications (IIC) Annual Conference on October 10, 2012 in Singapore.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
StarHub is Singapore's fully-integrated info-communication company, offering a full range of information, communications and entertainment services for both consumer and corporate markets. StarHub operates a HSPA+ mobile network that delivers up to 21Mbps for downlink to complement its nation-wide GSM network, and is currently building its LTE network which is expected go “live” first in key business areas by the end of 2012. It also manages an island-wide HFC network that delivers multi-channel cable TV services (including High Definition Television and on-demand services) as well as ultra-high speed residential broadband services. StarHub operates an extensive fixed business network that provides a wide range of data, voice and wholesale services. Over Singapore’s fibre-based Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network, StarHub offers a broad range of home and business broadband plans along with a host of advanced media-rich value-added services.
Launched in 2000, StarHub has become one of Singapore's most innovative info-communications providers, and the pioneer in 'hubbing' - the ability to deliver unique integrated and converged services to all its customers. StarHub, listed on the main board of the Singapore Exchange since October 2004, is a component stock of the Straits Times Index and the MSCI Singapore Free Index.
About Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R)
The Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R pronounced as i-squared-r) is a member of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) family. Established in 2002, our mission is to be the globally preferred source of innovations in `Interactive Secured Information, Content and Services Anytime Anywhere’ through research by passionate people dedicated to Singapore’s economic success. I²R performs R&D in information, communications and media (ICM) technologies to develop holistic solutions across the ICM value chain. Our research capabilities are in information technology, wireless and optical communication networks, interactive and digital media, signal processing and computing. We seek to be the infocomm and media value creator that keeps Singapore ahead. For more information about I2
R, please visit www.i2r.a-star.edu.sg.
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore's lead public sector agency that fosters world-class scientific research and talent to drive economic growth and transform Singapore into a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation driven economy.
In line with its mission-oriented mandate, A*STAR spearheads research and development in fields that are essential to growing Singapore’s manufacturing sector and catalysing new growth industries. A*STAR supports these economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry.
A*STAR oversees 20 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research entities, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis as well as their vicinity. These two R&D hubs house a bustling and diverse community of local and international research scientists and engineers from A*STAR’s research entities as well as a growing number of corporate laboratories.
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Annex A: Background on SWSPG
The Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group (SWSPG) was formed on 19 April 2012 by the Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), Microsoft Singapore (Microsoft) and StarHub, to pursue commercial pilots using TV White Spaces and associated technologies for innovative consumer and business services and applications in Singapore.
TV White Spaces refer to unused radio spectrum in the TV broadcast bands that could potentially be utilised for alternative wireless broadband communications similar to Wi-Fi capabilities, but with lower-power, lower-cost and longer-range characteristics. TV White Spaces technologies could also enable a multitude of devices to be connected wirelessly and cost-effectively to power applications and services created for a smart-city.
As an initial step, three commercial pilot projects are currently being carried out by SWSPG members with industry partners to explore how white spaces technology can supplement and enhance the existing broadband infrastructure, overcome challenging terrains, maximise radio spectrum efficiency, and enable innovative consumer and business applications.
SWSPG will demonstrate commercial value and viability of TV White Spaces deployments in multiple use case scenarios. These real-life deployments will gather white spaces data and end-user feedback, and provide insightful information to the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore as well as other regulators that are implementing regulatory frameworks in their countries.
SWSPG welcomes local and international entities to join as members, and work together to accelerate the adoption of TV White Spaces technologies and policies locally, regionally, and globally. Together, the group also aims to promote Singapore as a leading test-bed and innovation zone for this new and exciting technology.
Since launch, six local and global organisations have joined SWSPG, namely Neul Ltd (as an additional founding member), Adaptrum, Power Automation Pte Ltd, Singapore Island Country Club, Spectrum Bridge, Inc and ZDW Systems Pte Ltd.
Annex B: Information on the three pilot projects
Through the Trees:
TVWS Overcoming Challenging Terrains at Singapore Island Country Club (SICC)
A Pilot Project by Microsoft and Neul in partnership with SICC
Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) is a prestigious golf and country club in Singapore, with a wide range of sporting, lifestyle and dining facilities and services. It is also renowned for being an early adopter of new technologies to bring about innovative services to its members. Among its existing network infrastructure, fixed ADSL lines aare currently used for connectivity among its multiple sites. However, such connectivity has been plagued by network instability caused by aging phone lines. By using TV White Spaces (TVWS) Database technology from Microsoft and TVWS radio systems from Neul, SICC is among the very first commercial entities in Asia to deploy the cutting-edge technology. The TVWS deployment affords SICC with an alternative, reliable, self-managed wireless connectivity among its various sites.
Located near Singapore’s main catchment area, the club is surrounded by dense vegetation, hilly terrain, and reflective reservoir water surfaces, and experiences frequent heavy rainfall. Attempts to implement other broadband wireless solutions, including extreme measures such as floating air balloon-mounted antennas, to resolve the connectivity issue have not been successful due to the challenging terrain and blockage by the trees. This deployment effectively demonstrates the superior ability of TVWS radio signals to overcome the challenging environment at SICC. Possible expansion of deployment could help SICC to enable more intelligent water and energy management, remove Wi-Fi “blind spots” in its current club houses, and provide Wi-Fi coverage on its four 18-hole golf courses, making possible a whole new set of innovative services.
A pioneer and core advocator of TV White Spaces technology, Neul Ltd, a Cambridge, UK-based Wireless Solutions and Services Company are developing wide-area wireless network technology to meet the specific requirements of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications and to deliver broadband connectivity in challenging environments. It uses Weightless, a communications standard that allows for low cost terminal equipment and long battery life and will become an enabler for the ‘Internet of Things’. Neul’s solution has been deployed in three continents and Neul is very excited about this new deployment in Singapore.
Microsoft has been a strategic technology partner for SICC through joint development and deployment of cutting-edge technologies such as Surface Computing and Windows Azure Cloud. In this new TVWS deployment, Microsoft played a key enabling role as the TVWS Data Base provider. Microsoft looks forward to working with its partners to deliver more innovative, Cloud-based services on top of this new connectivity solution.
The SICC TVWS deployment exemplifies the compelling commercial value and superior performance of the TVWS technology. The partners believe that such deployment experience would have a wide-range of applicability throughout the Asian region and beyond.
Over the Water:
Marine Wi-Fi Application
A Pilot Project by StarHub in partnership with I2R, Microsoft, Neul and Adaptrum
Singapore operates one of the busiest ports in the world, and is a world-leading oil rig producer. It also runs a vibrant ship repair industry, a high passenger traffic cruise centre and huge logistic support fleet. Each year, hundreds of thousands of ships drop anchor at Singapore shores.
Vessels can anchor near Singapore shores for days to weeks, and even months before setting off again to sea. Currently, these ships rely on satellite connectivity for their offshore communication needs so that the crew can access email, Internet and voice communication services, ensuring business operations and crew productivity. However, there are two main disadvantages of satellite communications: High cost, time delay in responding and prevailing weather condition.
As an info-communications operator that frequently looks for new growth areas and delivers innovations to the market, StarHub sees good potential in TVWS (TV White Spaces) technology to catalyse business transformation and operational excellence in the marine and offshore industry.
TVWS is a new radio technology that is capable of freeing up more spectrum by utilising the unused spectrum of the TV VHF/UHF bands for unlicensed frequency usage in a controlled manner. With the digitisation of TV channels, there remain a lot of frequencies that can be re-farmed, to provide wireless broadband services and to power smart-city applications. These are good spectrum frequencies in the sub-1GHz band that can propagate further and penetrate buildings better than existing mobile and Wi-Fi networks. The utilisation of these frequencies is managed from a database, provided by Microsoft, which provides a panoramic view of spectrum allocation and usage in a given region.
The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has been supporting the development of TVWS technology. Since IDA’s commencement of the CRAVE (Cognitive Radio Venues) trials in May 2011, the industry has started exploring applications using TVWS. Marine Wi-Fihas been identified as one of the applications that will be further studied for TVWS technology deployment.
StarHub’s Marine Wi-Fi pilot project is conducted in partnership with I2R, Microsoft, as well as Neul and Adaptrum. It combines the intelligence of a TVWS Geo-location database with Cognitive Radio devices, to harness the advantages of the low band White Spaces frequencies over the traditional higher band mobile broadband frequencies. The use of TVWS database helps to ascertain the radio ability of White Spaces to avoid interference and select the best operating frequency.
The pilot project is currently being carried out in Changi, at a site that is 40m above sea level. Measurements are conducted from designated boats that can travel up to 10km away from the shoreline.
Smart City Application - Smart Grid Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)
A Pilot Project by A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R)
in partnership with Power Automation Pte Ltd
Smart Grid development is receiving increasing interest globally due to its promise to reduce carbon emissions and bring better efficiency in energy generation and consumption. In line with this growing demand towards Smart Grid or Smart Cities, A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R) is working in partnership with Power Automation Pte Ltd on a pilot project to develop TV White Space (TVWS) based Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Communications.
AMI is the foundation platform to grid modernization. It is not a single technology, but rather a fusion of many technologies that provides an intelligent connection between consumers and utility providers. This will enable utility providers to remotely control and manage the utility meters in a cost effective manner. Consumers will also be able to know the electricity consumption of their individual household items.
This system aims to overcome the challenges of existing solutions by improving the current communication range, reducing total cost of ownership and enhancing connectivity across thousands of meters in distances. The solution also supports multi-mode communication technologies such as Power Line Communication (PLC) and Zigbee which allows data to be flexibly bridged between these technologies to extend the communication reach.
The TVWS-based AMI system is currently being deployed in NUS University Town as a pilot project.
The TVWS solution for Smart Metering communication marries two hot topics together – range/penetration and operating expenses. Conventional AMI communication solutions such as ZigBee face range and penetration issues. By adopting TVWS, long range communication of up to 1km can be achieved, covering a large number of metering nodes.
Additionally, consumers can enjoy lower operating expenses due to usage of the unlicensed TVWS spectrum. I2R’s solution also provides variable data rates for deployment in different scenarios; for example in Singapore’s dense HDB estates or sparse landed property areas. Furthermore, high data rates ensure future proof of the investments.
The AMI radio modules are developed as swappable small form factor modules which are typically fitted inside the meter enclosure. At locations where TV band signal cannot penetrate such as deep basement, these smart meters may optionally communicate with each other through PLC.