Cambridge White Space Trial – first tweet over White Space by Cambridge Consultants?
One of the progenitors of innovative wireless product development is the adoption of new standards which makes innovation much more attractive because it reduces the risks to consumers that equipment and services they buy will be incompatible with other things they need. So examples of this are the explosive growth in Bluetooth in the early 21st centruy which provided an opportunity for a group of entrepreneurs from Cambridge Consultants to grow the now market leader CSR. A similar opportunity may well arise from the explosive growth in demand for mobile data services including machine to machine communications. This may require a new paradigm in spectrum usage known as cognitive radio where rather than allocating fixed frequencies for each application, a radio has to use intelligence to choose a frequency to operate on. The first radio concept along these lines is the use of the white space in the TV spectrum on a location and time dependent basis to provide services such as rural broadband and yesterday we sent the first tweet over a white space link from our building at Cambridge Consultants to a subscriber terminal in Cottenham. This illustrates the enhanced ranges available from this technology compared to WiFi and followed extensive development of our InCognito platform which combines real time sensing and use of the Ofcom database to ensure compatibility of transmission with other services in the locality.
Today at the Cambridge White Space Conference to launch the Cambridge White Space Trial, a set of partners demonstrated the technologies and an expert panel gave their views on the risks, challenges and opportunities that they foresee. The sponsoring partners include Microsoft, BBC, BT, Cambridge Consultants, Neul and Arqiva. A key issue for the success of white space is that primary spectrum licensees and the regulator are confident that the primary licensee has exclusive use of their spectrum when they need it. This is being managed in the trial by having an Ofcom database tell white space radios via an Ethernet connection which frequencies they can use in real time as a function of location and the ability for the database to effectively switch off specific frequencies in specific locations. The active involvement of Ofcom is very helpful to the development of these opportunities. There are also challenges attending the lack of international standardisation. The investment required in new wireless terminals is high and sometimes difficult to justify without standardised large international markets, but given the lack of a unified international starting point and different paces of the regulators in different countries it will take time for what is a new paradigm in spectrum allocation to gain acceptance.
My former colleague at Cambridge Consultants, James Collier, who was the inspirational founder of CSR has now moved on to found his next venture Neul who are developing a first generation White Space solution and illustrating the opportunities that these new disruptive technologies present for start up operations. Today they announced the completion of a significant funding round to enable them to build another wireless business of scale in Cambridge.