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back to article White Space: The Next Big Thing in networks

The white spaces are filling up around Cambridge, so El Reg went up to the Fens to talk to the companies responsible about what white space is for ... and why they're sticking their masts on pubs. Ofcom issued an experimental white space licence permitting low-power transmissions within an 80MHz-wide band around Cambridge in …

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Not Really Space

It's not a revolution. It's a niche.

Likely to cause a lot of problems too.

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Rural Broadband? In Britain?

Where would that be implemented, the Falklands? I mean, c'mon, seriously, there ain't no "rural" in the UK ... there just isn't enough room for it.

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Relative rurality

In my book, anywhere that you have to wait more than five minutes for a bus, or walk more than five minutes to find a 24hr shop is rural enough.

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Anonymous Coward

There is plenty of rural around

For instance, my Oldies live somewhere 6km from the local exchange, about a mile to the nearest neighbour. Buses come once a week, the nearest shop/petrol station is 20 minutes by car.

This isn't somewhere remote, about an hour from London. Plenty of rural idylls, not much broadband.

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Anonymous Coward

Live 30 mins cycling distance from a major UK city centre

But only get 800Kbit/s broadband, on a good day. So I'll take up anything that offers even 2Mbit/s without the huge latency or usage restrictions of 3G.

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It depends on your definition of "rural"

If you mean living on a million acre farm with your nearest neighbour a sun-bleached bison skull then fair enough ... but plenty of the UK is sufficiently far from an urban hub to make wireless broadband a more sensible option than laying new cables. Pretty much the whole of Scotland apart from the Glasgow/Edinburgh belt, for example. Large parts of the south of England that haven't (yet) been swallowed up into the M3/M4 commuter corridor. Wales ... although that will obviously depend on the introduction of electricity and literacy.

Glastonbury will soon need a once-yearly terabit interweb connection just to support the torrent of "oh my god I'm in a field listening to a dreary Live Nation act" Twittery.

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Rural Cambridgeshire

I live in a village about 10 miles from the centre of Cambridge. Ten years ago, when we asked BT about broadband connection, the response was "it will never be possible - you are too far from the exchange". (Annoyingly, the next-door garden contains a small brick building labelled "Telephone Exchange", but it appears the real exchange has been moved further away.)

Because wired broadband was "impossible", a local company set up to provide wireless broadband to villages. I signed up and I allowed them to put an antenna on my chimney. It all looked very promising, as the wireless connection would be faster than a wired one.

As soon as the competition appeared, BT decided that "impossible" was possible and that "never" meant "now". The wireless company consequently went bust, leaving me with a large antenna to remove from the roof. And everybody got a crap connection over 3+ miles of copper.

If the white space companies can give us decent rural broadband, I'll be immensely grateful. But they'd better expect BT to suddenly discover that the area's ideal for fibre.

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Oh yes, I remember this well....

...someone I worked with had just got a job with that wireless ISP and was literally stopped in mid-install. The reason that happened was that as soon as BT announced that they would ADSL enable the exchanges that they previously couldn't, the East of England Development Agency revoked their infrastructure grant (well it wasn't a not-spot any more was it?) and pulled the rug from underneath the company who were in the middle of installing their kit. Several people I knew that lived out in the Ely direction suddenly found their working 2Mbps wireless connection stopped working before BT had done their own installation work so they were left broadband-less for several months.

Remember, BT don't like competition, and once they've squashed it they don't want to invest any more money for many years.

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BT, The seventh circle of hell

BT tried a similar trick up near Wrexham. They'd said that a certain village outside the town that broadband would cost a few grand for each house, so the villagers got together and started to look in to their own wireless install with guaranteed decent speed (5mbit or more). Once BT got wind of this they offered to connect all the houses to another exchange for £200 with 1mbit and a new phone number...

BT know full well they've got a monopoly outside urban areas for everything (voice and data). Even if you go for another supplier your still going to be passing some of that cash through to BT wholesale. They don't even have to try and win custom.

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FAIL

Space is not always white

Have they never heard of tropospheric ducting? Expect these networks to fall apart on clear, cold Autumn days when UHF signal ranges can be extended to hundreds of miles.

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Facepalm

re: "Have they never heard of tropospheric ducting?"

No. They're highly paid experts in radio comms. Obviously they won't have heard of something so rudimentary that every spotty teenage amateur radio bore has it on a fecking tshirt.

/sarcasm

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WTF?

But I thought....

...that all of us amateur radio bores were bearded cynical old gits because there are practically no spotty teenagers in the hobby any more?

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Err, don't forget ...

This is the same OfCon that still won't accept that PLTs cause any problems worth investigating. The same OfCon that kept claiming they had seen no evidence of a problem a full years after it turned out they had a report in their hands that effectively said "massive problem".

This is the same OfCon that will quite happily sell the same spectrum twice. This spectrum already "belongs" to someone - you can be quite sure ofCon will extract licence fees from others to use it as well.

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You might be right, Brian.

But I haven't left my attic for twenty years. You're all still just voices and bulletin board messages to me.

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@Simon Hobson

Strictly speaking, Ofcom (is OfCon a hilarious pun or a typo?) and the BBC are both quite clear that PLTs can cause interference and irritation to beardy and/or spotty amateur radio bods. They're just not going to throw anybody in clink for using it.

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/enforcement/spectrum-enforcement/plt/

Can you expand on what you mean by double selling spectrum?

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Pint

Missing the important details

Good article but missing the impotant details..

Which pub? Where? Does it have a good selection of guest ales?

Need to know where to go to "research" this new medium for my "rural" users

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very interesting...

This will be a very handy technology for rural (or indeed suburban) data comms. It'll be interesting to see how it handles more rugged terrain than pool table flat fenland

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never been there, but....

Do you have mountains in England? Or should I just spend 20 minutes in Google Maps?

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@theodore

"Do you have mountains in England?"

No, they don't. Lovely country to walk in, though. Pubs every couple miles :-)

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@"Do you have mountains in England?"

I don't live in England (I live in Wales). There are mountains, but this test is being done in Cambridge, which is geographically similar to Northern France or the low countries i.e. flatter than a flat thing.

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No, rhydian, there are no mountains in Wales.

There are many peaks taller than Yr Wyddfa looking down on Silicon Valley, California ... they are all known colloquially as "the hills" ...

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Perspective.

I have about 7,000 acres of land, halfway between Fort Bragg and Willits, off of Hwy20 in California. Access is via a forest road, about 12 miles of dirt that I maintain voluntarily. The CDF thanks me for the maintenance. I don't consider it "rural", for the simple reason that I can get cold beer within forty five minutes of the barn ... My property in Nevada, on the other hand, is around three hours from cold beer ... It was cheep, but has water, and we grow most of our alfalfa there ...

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Unhappy

Pirate TV, TV DX

Two thoughts surface above many others....

1 - Great way to stop Pirate TV - fill the unused channels with data

2 - Sad for TV DXers who like to receive long distance signals from other regions / countries

Surely there's enough spectrum out there that they could leave TV alone? Couldn't they use the TV band for ... perhaps... more TV? Like more HD services?

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Rural Broadband (allegedly) or Live Entertainment - you choose!

All these tests prove is that someone could calculate a Link Budget for some UHF frequencies! If this is for Rural Broadband why are they testing in a City? They are not really proving or testing anything new or novel. But that is what they want the politicians to believe.

The so called White Spaces are not as unused as some would have you believe. Ever been to a live rock / pop concert or festival? Ever been to a live musical theatre show? What, nobody who reads El Reg, never, really? Well assuming that someone here has seen some live music entertainment at least once, what made it possible for the performers to be heard and move around without trailing cables everywhere were radio microphones, and guess what, they use the White Spaces - we use the term Interleaved Spectrum - and yes, as Simon Hobson has suggested "double selling spectrum" is already happening 'cos those radio mics have to be licensed and those licences have to be paid for, in spectrum that the broadcasters have already paid for once.

It's not just live entertainment either. TV and feature film productions use the same radio mics. Watch the UK film industry take another beating when the UK spectrum becomes unusable for radio mics and all the productions clear off to other parts of the world where they still work. Being melodramatic? Maybe, maybe not. The people with their eyes on the Whitespaces couldn't give a t0ss either way, it's not their jobs on the line.

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