CSIRO to trial wireless over analogue TV spectrum

12 Mbps up and down over tens of kilometres expected

The CSIRO will begin live field trials of its experimental wireless technology in September to assess whether spectrum formerly used for analogue television can be used to deliver National Broadband Network (NBN) services.

Under the trials, to be held in northern Tasmania, the CSIRO will assess the speed and range of the technology, which it sees as a means of delivering wireless broadband to the up-to 10 per cent of the population which will not receive fibre-to-the-home connections under the NBN.

The technology, announced in April last year and dubbed Broadband to the Bush, is designed to make use of analogue television infrastructure already in place within Australia.

“What we are proposing to do is use the broadcast towers and UHF and VHF frequencies that will be left when analogue television is switched off,” CSIRO group executive information and communication sciences and technology, Dr. Alex Zelinsky, explained at the time.

“The whole idea is that there is no communications gear in that space as it has been used for TV and we can reuse the broadcast infrastructure.”

According to the CSIRO's IICT Centre Director, Dr Ian Oppermann, the field trials would assess the first and second layers – physical layer and Media Access Control (MAC) layer – of the networking stack.

“What we want to do is demonstrate the raw bitrate you can get… while that is great for scientists, its less appealing for people who are looking for [Internet] services,” Oppermann said.

“So, we will take one broadcast tower, which is already there… and one analogue TV channel – 7MHz – and we use that for six simultaneous users at 12 Mbps up and down– it’s a time division multiplexing system.

“We will put six terminals in with farmers and a variety of other people and deliver them high speed communications. The applications will be canned website pages… then we will do some video streaming then some real-time chat.”

On the issue of the range, Oppermann said the technology would be constrained by the power at which the CSIRO was allowed to broadcast.

“Range really is the 64 million dollar question,” he said. “We have a licence for a particular transmit power, and the transmit power sets the range, but we will be looking to demonstrate 10s of kilometres with this technology.”

“Ultimately what could be deployed will depend on what transmit powers are allowed. If we are allowed to transmit at the same powers as analogue TV, which is actually quite high, then give us an analogue channel and we will give you 12 Mbits up and down.”

Oppermann added that the technology, in comparison to rival platforms such as LTE and WiMax, would also be geared to delivering breadth of coverage, rather than capacity, to end users.

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