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Super Wi-Fi: What you need to know about TV White Space

The Government unveiled regulations regarding TV White Space on Monday (June 16). What exactly is the technology, and how will you benefit from it?

SINGAPORE: The regulatory framework governing TV White Space (TVWS), which promises to free up additional bandwidth for better Internet connectivity and open up business opportunities, was unveiled on Monday (June 16).

READ: Singapore unveils Super Wi-Fi regulations

But how will the emerging technology impact end-users and businesses? Below are the answers to some commonly asked questions:

WHAT IS TV WHITE SPACE? HOW DOES IT WORK?

TVWS, also known as Super Wi-Fi, refers to unused or underutilised radio spectrum in the TV broadcast bands that could be used for alternative wireless broadband communications, including the transmission of data.

In Singapore, there are 24 channels that fall into this category. You know how when you switch TV channels and hit a channel with static fuzz? That is the “white space” this technology refers to.

HOW WILL TVWS WORK WITH EXISTING NETWORKS SUCH AS WI-FI, 3G OR 4G?

TV White Space runs on a lower frequency to Wi-Fi, or mobile networks such as 3G or 4G. The lower the frequency, the better its ability to travel longer distances and penetrate more obstacles and tougher terrain. Also, in urban Singapore, the quality of wireless signals tends to deteriorate because of the interference caused by the buildings.

By comparison, typical home Wi-Fi signals can travel through two walls, but with Super Wi-Fi, signals can travel up to 10km through vegetation, buildings and other obstacles, according to a TechRepublic report.

Also, less power is needed to broadcast TVWS signals, so service providers may incur lower operational costs. This could potentially translate to cheaper bills for the end-user.

WILL SUPER WI-FI WORK WITH EXISTING DEVICES?

In short, no. Existing devices such as mobile phones, tablets, and laptops are not equipped to receive TVWS frequencies.

There are workarounds to this problem, such as creating a wireless router that connects to the Super Wi-Fi network, then broadcasting typical signals. However, that "hotspot" would then be subject to the common frailties of Wi-Fi networks.

WHO WILL CONTROL THE TVWS NETWORK IN SINGAPORE?

Unlike existing mobile networks, the IDA has opted to do away with licences for TVWS in its regulatory framework. This means that anyone with an interest in the industry may use the Super Wi-Fi bandwidth without applying for a licence.

However, an IDA spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia that it cannot comment whether companies will have to apply for licenses in the future.

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