Cambridge, UK launches city-wide white space wireless network

Cambridge (UK) has completed the first stage of its citywide wireless network in the “white space” (the unused and underused parts of the wireless spectrum left vacant by the move from analog TV to digital TV). This initial phase consists of a wireless smart electricity meter reading application over the white space spectrum. The city is using Neul, a mobile data wireless provider that uses the white space spectrum and Bglobal Metering, a systems integrator in smart metering and energy management.

According to the press release, the first phase set out to prove that the use of the white space spectrum does not interfere with or disrupt televisions and other wireless devices. In addition to the smart grid, Neul’s network opens up several possibilities for the Smart City of the future, enabling smarter transport and traffic management, city lighting and other municipal services.

Excerpts from the press release:

“In a world of Smart Phones and mobile broadband it is easy to imagine that wireless connectivity has now been solved,” commented Glenn Collinson, co-founder and Board Member at Neul. “It hasn’t. Mobile broadband is too expensive for ‘things’ in the Smart City. Also mobile broadband means battery powered devices would need changing far too often. And all those sensors would load the cellular networks to such a level that there would be little network capacity left.

“Mobile networks are great for people but terrible for machines. At Neul we are today demonstrating that the smart city can happen now with a new wireless standard called ‘Weightless’ specifically designed for embedding in electricity and gas meters, air quality sensors, recycling points, street lighting, parking spaces, traffic lights and … well … ‘things’ rather than people.”

“In the last few years we’ve heard a great deal about white space and the opportunities it will bring. With many countries approving the necessary legislation, the launch of the world’s first city-wide white space network coupled with the demonstration of a smart meter reading over white space is a major milestone towards the realisation of these opportunities.” commented Will Strauss, Chief Analyst Forward Concepts. “Technologies available today simply cannot realistically deal with the cost, power and propagation requirements of many elements of the Smart City. This sharp movement towards a world of ubiquitous machine-to-machine communication has huge implications and the industry will be watching closely.”

Neul’s network comprises:

  • Five base stations around the city of Cambridge.
  • One base station in a rural community south of Cambridge.
  • A cloud-hosted network Operational & Management Centre (OMC) that efficiently and securely manages the communications between the internet and the ‘Things’.
  • Support for multiple geo-location databases that ensure wireless microphones, TV transmission and reception is not disrupted.