Wednesday 18 June 2014

Singapore unveils Super Wi-Fi regulations

By Kevin Kwang and Leong Wai Kit, Channel NewsAsia, 16 Jun 2014

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) on Monday (June 16) announced a regulatory framework for the use of TV White Space (TVWS) spectrum, which would free up additional bandwidth for better Internet connectivity and open up business opportunities.

In a statement, the IDA said the regulations will free up approximately 180 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum when they kick in from November 2014. 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.

Super Wi-Fi technology can cover longer distances and penetrate more obstacles and tougher terrain than higher frequencies such as those used for mobile networks. Its use requires less power and is therefore cheaper.

"The TVWS regulatory framework is a step towards Singapore’s vision of being the world’s first Smart Nation," said Mr Leong Keng Thai, IDA’s Deputy Chief Executive and Director General for Telecoms and Post.

"Regulators all over the world are exploring different ways to efficiently use spectrum, so that they can plan for their countries’ future needs. The additional spectrum made available through the TVWS regulatory framework will ensure that Singapore efficiently allocate and use this available bandwidth to support the growing demand for data communication.”

The regulatory framework was put together following a public consultation issued in June 2013 to seek feedback from industry stakeholders on a set of proposed technical parameters and regulations for the use of TVWS in Singapore. Below are the three regulations:
- Licence-exempt use of TVWS spectrumBusinesses that wish to deploy or use TVWS technology may do so without applying for a license from IDA, provided they adhere to technical parameters and regulations for the use of the spectrum.
- Geo-location databasesIDA has mandated the use of geo-location databases to determine which spectrum channels are available for use. With this, TVWS equipment can communicate with the databases to identify the available spectrum channel to use in real time, thereby preventing any interference with TV broadcast signals.
Companies interested to develop and manage a geo-location database service will be required to apply for a Service-Based Operator (Individual) licence, and IDA will waive the licence fees for the first two years.
- Licencing of TVWS equipmentManufacturers and suppliers of equipment with the ability to access TVWS technology and services will be required to register the equipment under the IDA's existing General Equipment Registration scheme, much like suppliers of handsets and communication devices.
Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, said Singapore is one of the first countries in the world to have such a regulatory framework.

Speaking at the Ministerial Forum on ICT 2014 welcome dinner on Monday, Dr Yaacob said: “The framework will encourage and facilitate businesses and services providers to develop new wireless services and applications, or utilise TV White Space to supplement and enhance their existing networks. Business applications may include machine-to-machine communications, smart metering and outdoor environment and security monitoring services.”

“Consumers, too, will stand to benefit from the services provided over TV White Space, as they will have greater access to more options of wireless services such as Wi-Fi,” he added.

Gardens By The Bay has been experimenting with TVWS technology to boost Internet connectivity on its premises, having introduced the service to visitors in October 2013.

Operational Director Ng Boon Gee told Channel NewsAsia: "Obviously without Wi-Fi, what visitors can use is only the 3G network, and Gardens being a new infrastructure, the network isn't perfect."

"But now with (Super Wi-Fi), we are much better in terms of connectivity. (The technology) allows us to install the system without digging the garden, which is extremely useful to us because that actually helps to save our precious plants," Mr Ng said.

Super Wi-Fi: What you need to know about TV White Space
By Kevin Kwang, Channel NewsAsia, 17 Jun 2014

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).

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


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.


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.


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.


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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