MANILA, Philippines — The government’s Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) is looking into using unutilized frequencies assigned to television for data communications, in an effort to bring broadband Internet to unserved Filipinos in the provinces.
In a collaborative project dubbed the TV White Space (TVWS) initiative launched by the ICTO on Tuesday, the government said TVWS signals can also be used for its environmental sensor networks, telemedicine, educational content delivery, as well as Government Information Systems (GIS).
TVWS are unutilized television frequencies in the VHF and UHF bands, the standards for which has been issued by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) under IEEE802.22, or similar to the standards used for Wi-Fi networks.
The ICTO said TVWS frequencies would be advantageous in pushing for broadband connectivity in rural areas of the country since it can “literally pass through several concrete walls as well as thick foliage,” making it ideal for the uneven terrain in the countryside.
Available TVWS equipment reportedly have as much as 6Mbps of data throughput delivered at a maximum range of 10 kilometers, meaning less base stations are required to deploy wireless broadband connectivity.
“We are very excited with this new technology,” said Louis Casambre, Executive Director at the ICTO. “For the first time ever, I think we finally have a solution to address the issue that a significant percentage of our population cannot reap the benefits of Internet connectivity because of the unavailability of infrastructure.”
According to statistics from research firms, the number of Internet users in the country remains around the 30 million line, a figure that has changed very little in the past few years.
Casambre said it is the hope of the government that the TVWS initiative would be able to finally make broadband connectivity a mainstream technology for majority of Filipinos.
“With TVWS’s potentially large coverage footprint, coverage can be extended to areas not usually reached by conventional wired or wireless broadband. Base stations can also be further apart, making this a cost effective solution,” he added.
Pilot tests of TVWS on-premise equipment provided by Adaptrum of the U.S. and Neul Ltd. from the U.K. has been scheduled this month for several sites in Quezon City, with pilot tests being planned in the Visayas and Mindanao areas within the year.
Abroad, companies such as Microsoft, Google, and BBC are supporting the development of TVWS for use in empowering digital citizens in the countryside. In the UK, the city of Cambridge has become the first locale to declare its TVWS trials a success.
The ICTO’s TVWS initiative is a collaborative effort of the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), Microsoft and TVWS developers Neul and Adaptrum as well as UP Tele-Health, ABS-CBN, Ateneo, and PhilDev.