With A*STAR’s support, start-up taps unused TV white space and breaks into global market for internet connectivity
To most people living in developed and dense urban cities, Internet connection is a given. But almost half of the world's population - more than 3 billion - still remains unconnected. The major cause of this digital divide is the high cost to deploy connectivity in less populated areas. Costly connections are also preventing remote industries such as agriculture from adopting internet-of-things (IoT) to raise their productivity.
This is where Whizpace, a spinoff from A*STAR comes in. Founded in 2016, the local start-up is bridging the connectivity gap with TV White Space (TVWS), which are essentially unused television broadcasting airwaves. Whizpace offers a portfolio of products that leverage white spaces to bring internet access to remote locations, to support the needs of everything from smart cities, to IoT connected factories and urban farms.
With A*STAR’s support, Whizpace has made inroads into the niche market of TVWS, achieving a 200% compound annual growth rate from 2017 to 2019, and expanding its customer base from three countries to 17 in three years. With seven patents in its name, Whizpace is the first company to test TVWS with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and most recently raised 6 million yuan (S$1.2 million) for the expansion of its Chinese subsidiary Whizpace (Suzhou) Co. Ltd.
Read on to find out more about Whizpace's start-up journey with A*STAR.
Taking Off with A*STAR Enterprise
In 2014, former A*STAR researchers Dr Oh Ser Wah and Mr Pankaj Sharma received R&D and funding support from A*STAR Enterprise1 to conduct field trials of their TVWS technology solutions. Both researchers spotted the potential of using TVWS to meet the growing demand for wireless communications. When the worldwide migration from analog to digital TV occurred, a large amount of TV broadcast spectrum, or airwaves, was freed up. This gave them an opportune time to delve into the TVWS business.
TVWS is known as 'Super Wi-Fi' as it can transmit data over longer distances than the typical Wi-Fi and penetrate through obstacles, allowing for low power consumption and strong signals even in rural areas. Thus it fulfills the unmet need for connectivity in remote and obstructed areas.
Tapping on the A*STAR Enterprise's industry network, they gained access to potential investors and early adopters for their technology solutions. These led to the successful launch of Whizpace in 2016.
Thumbs Up to T-Up
In 2017, Whizpace licensed the TVWS technology from A*STAR's Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), and embarked on A*STAR's Technology for Enterprise Capability Upgrading (T-Up) programme2 , which seconds A*STAR researchers to aid in the company's R&D efforts.
The A*STAR researchers developed new technologies
to enhance Whizpace's products such as WhizMesh and WhizNano, which can provide uninterrupted internet connections and connect IoT devices over long distances and physical obstacles. They also supported the company in product deployment and commercialisation, and trained the employees to raise their technical capabilities.
Gaining a Foothold in the TVWS Market
Whizpace is addressing huge opportunities in the IoT market, bringing internet access to remote areas such as offshore islands and palm oil plantations, and enabling video surveillance, estate management and smart manufacturing. It has secured contracts with Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) to connect remote islands as far as 10km apart. Its solutions are also deployed in US MNC factories as the backbone network for Industry 4.0.
Commitment to Innovation
To remain competitive, Whizpace is committed to investing in innovation and building a robust R&D team and further capabilities.
New Products and Services
Developed in-house intellectual property (IP), expanded product offerings from 1 product to 4 matured products
Expansion in R&D and Innovation Activities
Developed a core R&D team for product development, and doubled the number of technical staff in Singapore and Suzhou since 2017
A*STAR has been an incubator that provides start-ups like Whizpace with an avenue for collaborations on technology advancements. Through these avenues, we were able to combine our expertise and expand our reach in the market space, and advance our company’s capabilities in the process.
Dr. Oh Ser Wah, CEO of Whizpace
1A*STAR’s Enterprise is A*STAR’s industry development and commercialisation division, which creates opportunities for greater synergies between A*STAR and partners in various types of collaborations, such as research collaborations, licensing, and spin-off efforts. Read more about A*STAR’s Enterprise.
2 A*STAR’s T-Up Scheme seconds A*STAR scientists and research engineers to aid in local SMEs’ R&D projects for up to two years. They share product development strategy, aid innovation in business processes, and assist companies to develop innovative products. Read more about T-Up programme.