Digital switchover boost for broadband
IN JUST UNDER four weeks’ time Ireland’s analogue system will switch off and the much anticipated digital switchover will happen.
While this will spell the beginnings of a new viewing experience for TV audiences, the switchover is also generating new possibilities for the telecommunications industry.
A workshop yesterday at Trinity College Dublin, organised by CTVR, a telecommunications research team based at the college, sought to highlight the possibilities the switchover will generate.
Led by Prof Linda Doyle, the team has been spearheading research in this area in Ireland for more than three years and is also involved in a EU research project on the topic, CogEU.
As Prof Doyle explains, the switch from analogue to digital means that unused white spaces surrounding the new digital signals of the Saorview system will be up for grabs.
“What will happen on October 24th is that whole chunks of the spectrum will become empty. It’s a fantastic opportunity.
“Spectrum is a valuable resource, and it’s rare that so much readily usable spectrum becomes free. In a sense, finding unused spectrum is like finding new oil reserves.”
In Dublin alone, there will be about 180MHz of unused spectrum after the switchoff. This compares with the 135MHz currently allocated to all of the 3G operators collectively and the 129.6Mhz currently allocated to all of the GSM operators.
Regulators in Ireland have not yet brought forward legislation on the issue, though a trial and test period is currently under way.
While other European countries are also gaining extra spectrum after the switchover, Ireland is particularly well-placed to capitalise on the newly available frequencies.
Ireland’s small population means that there are not the same demands on spectrum space that exist elsewhere. Also, the country’s geographic location and status as an island mean it doesn’t run the risk of impinging on other country’s borders, allowing greater experimentation to take place.
So what are the main applications of these new white spaces that are becoming available around the new Saorview model?
One of the main uses is in the field of wifi, and particularly increased broadband connectivity. With wireless systems becoming more and more essential for all aspects of everyday life and the uses of wifi becoming more sophisticated, the demand for faster and richer systems is endless.
“The new spectrum coming on stream will be particularly well-placed to respond to this demand,” Prof Doyle explains. “The frequency becoming available is particularly good quality. It allows waves to go further, and go through buildings.”
This opens up major possibilities for rural broadband penetration, as well as the provision of wifi in densely populated places. Large hotspots will now only need a few wifi hubs, rather than hundreds dotted around a small area.
The other main application is in the field of machine-to-machine (M2M) technology. Dr Tim Forde, a research fellow at the CTVR centre, says the field of M2M technology is a burgeoning one.